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United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
4 June 2010
UNITED NATIONS OFFICE AT GENEVA
REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
4 June 2010
Corinne Momal-Vanian, the Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for and representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the International Labour Organization, the UNISDR, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization.
Situation in Gaza
Christiane Berthiaume of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said that the United Nations Children's Fund and its partners were working in extremely difficult conditions to provide help to the approximately 800,000 children in Gaza, which represented more than half of the population living in the Strip. Development gains in Gaza were being reversed due to the blockade.
Together with the UN Secretary-General, UNICEF calls for an immediate lifting of the closure, and full, unimpeded access for humanitarian supplies and personnel, said Ms. Berthiaume.
The current situation was particularly affecting the youngest ones. Children in need of specialized care outside of Gaza had to navigate severe access restrictions and ten had died between 2009 and January 2010 due to delays in accessing critical care.
According to a study by Save the Children, chronic malnutrition in children had doubled from 1.2 per cent in 2006 to 2.4 per cent in 2008, said Ms. Berthiaume. Also, no new schools have been built due to the lack of construction material and the vast majority of schools had to operate in double shift in order to accommodate the sheer number of students.
Students wishing to pursue their studies abroad were regularly barred from leaving Gaza. Learning achievements within Gaza were plummeting, said Ms. Berthiaume. This year, only 46 per cent of fourth graders had passed their mathematics exams and 50 per cent their Arab language exams.
Ms. Berthiaume said that water and wastewater services have been rendered unreliable due to the lack of essential material for repair and maintenance work. Only around 10 per cent of the water in Gaza’s aquifer was fit for human consumption. Every day between 50 to 80 million of litres of partially untreated sewage were released into the Mediterranean.
Further, there was no specific list of what was allowed to enter Gaza or not. United Nations Children's Fund items have taken prolonged period for clearance into Gaza, including water pumps that had now spent seventeen months in the Ashdod warehouse, said Ms. Berthiaume. Math and science teaching kits had been stuck at customs since January because they contained periscopes and compasses.