Three months have passed since most teachers and health workers received salaries.
Given that the Palestinian Authority operates the majority of primary and secondary schools, health clinics and all the general hospitals, the financial crunch is seriously hurting the quantity and quality of basic services for children and women.
While the vast majority of health and education officials have continued to show up at work, anecdotal evidence describe schools running out of soap and paper; hospitals without basics such as aspirin or antibiotics; and mobile health clinics without fuel or functioning vehicles.
The security context is on a fast downward spiral. Past weeks have seen an unprecedented level of violence between rival Palestinian factions, on top of heightened military activity by Israeli Defense Forces. Movement and access for people and goods continues to be further restricted (1). Violence is seeping inwards, into homes and schools, where children are supposed to be safest.
In November 2005, as part of the UN Inter-agency Consolidated Appeal Process, UNICEF requested USD 8.4 million to meet the health, education and protection needs of vulnerable children and women in occupied Palestinian territory.
To meet the emergency health, education and protection needs brought on by the deepening financial crisis, UNICEF has revised its appeal amount to USD 22.7 million. UNICEF will continue to support the PA in delivering critically-needed basic services, including – particularly over the coming months – the provision of emergency health and education supplies, equipment and logistical support.
2. ISSUES FOR CHILDREN
HEALTH AND NUTRITION
Central stocks of critical medicines were at or near zero levels in May. There is an urgent lack of supplies and equipment, particularly for newborn care.
Fuel shortages impede on health care delivery, particularly of mobile health clinics that access isolated areas. Rising poverty also makes it more difficult for caregivers to bring sick children to health facilities.
Child nutritional status is seriously challenged by household poverty and restrictions to the movement of food products. The onset of avian flu adds a new and worrisome aspect, as in Gaza, chicken and eggs provide the main source of protein. Across oPt, one in 10 children are stunted; in Gaza, the proportion is 11%.
Disruptions in water and sanitation services have increased the risk of communicable disease. Intra-hospital infections among infants and children have increased, and in villages, there are signs of diarrhoeal disease.
Closures, roadblocks, and random checkpoints continued to challenge student and teacher access to schools. In Awarta boy’s school near Nablus, for example, five teachers missed between 11 and 20 days of school in April due to new, random checkpoints. The principal said students were getting accustomed to absent teachers, and that education quality was suffering.
There are few child-friendly learning environments and opportunities for sports and recreation. Many schools still follow chalk-and-talk teaching patterns and lack quality teaching aids.
Training activities have been rescheduled or canceled, as funds previously committed have been frozen. The non-payment of salaries has hurt morale. If non-payment continues over the coming months, teachers would have gone without half a year of paychecks by the time school re-opens.
UNICEF has begun discussions with the Ministry of Education and other UN agencies to prepare for a major Back-to-School campaign. The goal is to support teachers, students and the education system as a whole so that it is ready and prepared to welcome children into quality learning environments when schools reopen in September.
The cumulative effect of incursions and extended closures has had a negative impact on adolescents, who comprise a large, vulnerable and volatile group.
At least two-thirds of children and adolescents in the West Bank and Gaza lack opportunities for play, recreation and interaction in areas that are safe for them. There are around 300 youth clubs in the West Bank and Gaza, each used by about 40 children and adolescents, but most lack funding, and are poorly managed and equipped. Programs offered are usually limited to simple sporting activities without proper equipment.
Adolescents who have frequently been in the direct line of violence have the most need for opportunities to acquire skills that will enable them to develop into productive participants in their own well-being and that of their communities.
To reach more adolescents, the revised appeal calls for expanding the number of safe play areas from 23 to 36. These sites will be located near the separation barrier, in isolated enclaves, or in areas where adolescents have absolutely no safe spaces at all. An estimated 30,000 adolescents will benefit.
A high proportion of adolescents who are two or three levels below their normal grade end up dropping out of school and joining the unskilled labour market. Worsening socio-economic conditions point to the likelihood that the numbers of adolescents who are vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation will rise.
CHILD PROTECTION AND PSYCHOSOCIAL WELL-BEING
The non-payment of salaries and resulting psychosocial distress has been a major source of tension within households. Increasing difficulties in access, including physical obstacles, the separation barrier and regular closures of Erez and Karni crossings in Gaza, have further impacted coping mechanisms.
As a result, teachers, medical staff, social workers and other professionals are reporting higher numbers of cases of child abuse and distress, reflecting the heightened tension in homes and schools. UNICEF-supported psychosocial teams coordinated by YMCA in the West Bank, for example, have received a growing number of requests for interventions in schools. Requests come from teachers and / or principals who have observed more aggressive behaviour, lack of concentration and anxiety among children.
The number of children being detained has risen steadily, from 319 in January to 377 in May. As of end-May, 18 Palestinian children and one Israeli child had been killed in the conflict since the beginning of the year.
The revised emergency plan calls for raising the number of psychosocial teams to 15, which would mean that all districts would have an on-site team. It also seeks to include lawyers in each of the teams in order to provide legal as well as psychosocial support. Under the revised appeal, UNICEF would also work with the Ministries of Social Affairs and Education to put in place a mechanism to detect cases of abuse and refer them to multidisciplinary teams for follow up.
3. UNICEF RESPONSE: ACTIVITIES, ACHIEVEMENTS AND CONSTRAINTS
UNICEF’s humanitarian action focuses on child survival, nutrition, and ensuring that children are able to continue learning. Psychosocial support for children and families living in stressful conditions, and the creation of safe spaces for children and young people, are key areas of work. The range of tasks and needs are growing by the day.
HEALTH AND NUTRITION
All vaccines for 2006 have been procured and delivered. Non-routine vaccines (rabies, Hepatitis B for adults, measles, mumps and rubella, and seasonal flu) have also been procured.
Based on needs outlined in the MoH’s three-month appeal, UNICEF has procured almost USD 1.2 million in emergency drugs and disposables for over 400 health clinics, including major provisions for neonatal units in the 17 general hospitals.
Primary health care clinics across oPt have been upgraded with medical and cold chain equipment and supplies that will enable them to offer the full array of quality maternal and child health services.
UNICEF has provided one year’s supply of vitamin A, D2, folic acid and iron syrup for children. To strengthen growth monitoring systems, UNICEF provided scales and measuring tools to 140 clinics.
Because of fuel shortages and lack of spare parts for vehicles – as well as tighter restrictions on access and movement – MoH’s ability to reach isolated villages has been sharply curtailed. UNICEF is providing fuel, and helping maintain or rent vehicles so that mobile health teams can access the hardest to reach areas.
Interventions continued to focus on providing schools in crisis-affected areas with equipment and supplies, including computers and lab equipment, to improve teaching and learning. Ten schools in former enclaves or hard-hit areas have been provided with a comprehensive education package including supplies, lab and sports equipment, computers, library furniture and books, and teacher training.
For over 900 schools with very limited supplies, UNICEF has procured Maths and Science kits that include child-friendly teaching aids, including abacuses, models, and charts, that will make learning more interactive and fun for children.
UNICEF also procured 380 school-in-a box kits (each kit includes emergency education material for up of 80 students and 2 teachers) and 1,000 recreational kits that includes art supplies and sports equipment.
For disadvantaged students, UNICEF ordered 110,000 school bags that will be stuffed with a full set of school supplies – pencils, erasers, rulers – as well as 10 note books each, for use in the next school term.
UNICEF has also ordered 100,000 more copies of the remedial worksheets that have been so successful in enabling students to keep at their studies in the face of closures, curfews or military activity. The worksheets cover Maths, Science, Arabic and English for grades 1 through 6. More than three-quarters of a million students across oPt are currently using them, either to keep up or catch up with their studies, and thousands of parents and teachers have been trained to help children keep learning.
Following on a pilot implemented in 2005, some 400 children deeply affected by the conflict in four West Bank districts now participate in twice-weekly arts and music activities. UNICEF provided musical instruments and art supplies, as well as training for both teachers and students.
To provide adolescents and children with safe spaces to grow, learn and develop, UNICEF has established 23 safe play areas in some of the most isolated, deprived or restricted areas in the West Bank and Gaza.
Bi-weekly activities ranging from sports, drama, art, or non-formal learning continue to be held in these spaces, benefiting approximately 50,000 adolescents and children. Recreational kits, including art supplies and sports equipment have been provided to safe play areas in the West Bank.
Training has been provided to facilitators and other community members involved in running the safe spaces so that they are well versed in child rights and in how to interact with children. More than 100 animators have been trained to make activities as lively, fun and child-friendly as possible.
To provide learning opportunities for adolescents who have dropped out of school, mapping is underway for four non-formal learning spaces in areas with a high proportion of school drop-outs. These spaces will provide non-formal education, along with a broad range of extracurricular activities, to adolescents who would otherwise have limited opportunities to continue learning. Under the revised appeal, UNICEF would aim to establish a total of 11 such spaces, reaching an estimated an estimated 10,000 adolescents.
CHILD PROTECTION AND PSYCHOSOCIAL SUPPORT
Twelve psychosocial emergency teams are operating in oPt: seven in the West Bank and five in Gaza, covering 12 out of 15 districts. Since the beginning of the year, 9,843 children and adolescents participated in psychosocial sessions aimed at reinforcing their capacity to protect themselves and to cope with violence, and 7,758 children participated in fun days.
In parallel, 4,453 caregivers were equipped with skills on how to support children in distress and how to promote a harmonious family environment, as well as on how to deal with their own stress. Some 296 home and hospital visits took place following violent events.
Because children now have access to sites previously used for military confrontations (or for settlements), they are at higher risk of coming into contact with unexploded ordinances. To help them better protect themselves from injury, some 36 volunteers from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society have been trained to lead Mine Risk Education activities with children, families and communities in high risk areas, including Northern Gaza.
4. APPEAL REQUIREMENTS AND RECEIPTS
UNICEF’s CAP was originally budgeted at USD 8.4 million based on the needs assessment framework completed in November 2005. In light of recent developments in the humanitarian context, additional funds for the emergency response amount to USD 14.3 million, for a total requirement of USD 22.7 million.
The breakdown is as follows:
The following donors have indicated that emergency support is being considered or in the pipeline: USD 1,300,000 from USAID; USD 900,000 from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Service (ECHO) and USD 840,000 from Spain.
While there is a shortfall of some USD 15 million, the Adolescent and Child Protection programmes should be well-funded if the pipeline funds come through. This will enable the Adolescents programme to increase the number of safe play areas from 23 to 36, and establish 11 non-formal learning spaces. With the extra funds, the Child Protection programme will set up three more psychosocial teams so that all districts were covered, as well as three additional teams to work in schools on detecting and treating abuse.
The bulk of the fresh funding needed is for the provision of emergency drugs, including for newborn care, and to ensure that the education system can welcome students back into quality learning environments when the term reopens in September.
(1) The number of roadblocks and checkpoints increased from 376 in Sept. 2005 to 515 in mid-May 2006.
Further details of the emergency programme can be obtained either by visiting the UNICEF OPT website at www.unicef.org/opt or from:
Tel: + 972 2 583 00 13
Fax: + 972 2 583 08 06
Tel: + 41 22 909 5655
Fax: + 41 22 909 5902
Fax: +1 212 326 7165