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Source: United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
20 March 2007

UNICEF Humanitarian Action
Occupied Palestinian Territory
Donor Update
20 March 2007



Living conditions have rarely been worse for Palestinian children. In early 2007, unprecedented inter-factional clashes killed at least 10 children in Gaza, and injured many more. This followed an extraordinarily lethal 2006 with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with more than 120 child deaths across occupied Palestinian territory, far more than twice the 2005 total.

The occupation, now in its 40th year; tighter restrictions on access and movements; more frequent incursions and search and arrest operations by the IDF; and the effects of the expanding Barrier remain the root to the impoverishment and the distress across the Territory. The international financial blockade against the Palestinian Authority continues to restrict the ability of line ministries to provide basic social services, although ministry staff continue to spare no efforts in their work to fulfill children’s rights.

The Israeli military operation carried out in Nablus in February – the largest in three years – left large numbers of children distressed, especially by the arrest of family members and neighbors. Also in February, 15 Palestinian schoolchildren were arrested off their school bus in Bethlehem, and held overnight at Etzion detention center.

While harsh conditions have long prevailed across oPt, current levels of poverty, unemployment and insecurity have reached new lows. The distress within households is tangible, with caregivers reporting acute signs of distress among their children and themselves. In this context of extreme volatility, and oftentimes, misery within households and in communities, children say they have little to hope for, and much to fear.

Beyond direct confrontation with violence, children’s rights continue to be grossly violated in a multitude of ways – whether it is their right to proper health care, quality education, safe water and sanitation, opportunities for recreation, and protection from all forms of abuse. UNICEF support is needed more than ever to help prevent a further deterioration in children’s well-being. UNICEF bases its programmes on our Core Commitments for Children in Emergencies, working in our areas of expertise and comparative advantage. UNICEF will scale up projects where there is need, focusing mostly in education, health, nutrition, child protection, adolescent development, water and sanitation.


Health and Nutrition
Budgetary shortfalls at the Ministry of Health (MoH) have left stocks of essential drugs and disposables at critical levels. At the end of January 2007, 15 per cent of the essential drugs and 8 per cent of disposables were out of stock in Gaza.

While services including immunization and child nutrition were maintained in the face of extraordinary financial and logistical challenges over the past months, a resumption of the public sector strike in early February points to further difficulties in the delivery of basic quality health care. In the West Bank, movement and access restrictions, fuel shortages, and vehicle breakdowns hamper health care delivery in isolated areas.

Under-5 mortality rates are worsening and the nutritional status is threatened by household poverty, poor quality foodstuffs. Chronic malnutrition now stands at 9.9% across oPt, and at an alarming 13.9% in Gaza. More than 70% of nine-month old children in Gaza are anemic.

Water and sanitation
Most Palestinians live with far less than the 150 litres per day the WHO says is needed to drink, cook, clean and bathe. In Gaza, people access an average of 81 litres a day, while West Bankers survive on just 58 litres. Clean water is hard to obtain in Gaza because salinity and sewage have seeped into the coastal aquifer. Effluent seeping into the ground will affect generations to come.

Schools and clinics have inadequate and insufficient water storage systems and sanitary facilities, and poorly maintained connections to networks. In deeply impoverished communities where there are poor sanitary conditions, children face the risk of water-borne infections such as trachoma, conjunctivitis, dysentery and gastro-enteritis, ascariasis and hookworm. A lack of clean drinking water also increases the chance of diseases such as diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, paratyphoid and gastro-enteritis.

Restrictions on access and movements continue to challenge students’ and teachers’ ability to reach schools. With standards falling in science, math and Arabic, education quality continues to be a major challenge. Schools lack basic materials, and few teachers have the required skills to create child-friendly learning environments. The violence that surrounds children is also creeping into school yards and classrooms.

Many schools operate two shifts a day, leaving students with few opportunities for sports, recreation or even remedial classes. During the holidays, many activities were cancelled due to the non-availability of funds. Outside classrooms, students have few opportunities for sports and recreation, especially as costs for extra-curricular activities are borne by parents.

Child protection
The combination of the conflict and internal violence is expected to worsen children’s psychosocial well-being. Professionals have begun to report on the new phenomena of bedwetting among teenagers, and in the West Bank, requests for assistance from UNICEF-supported psychosocial teams continue to increase. Some 398 Palestinian children remained in Israeli detention facilities as of end February according to Defense for Children International – Palestine. The uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons and their misuse is of increasing concern, especially in Gaza.

The conflict has had a particularly damaging impact on adolescents, who comprise a large, vulnerable and volatile group. Those most directly exposed to violence have the greatest need for productive learning and recreational opportunities. Adolescents, who are two or three levels below their normal grade often 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 vulnerable to abuse, violence, and exploitation will increase.

Most adolescents have no access to learning or recreational programs outside schools, and spend the majority of their time at home. There are around 300 youth clubs in the West Bank and Gaza, but most lack funding, and are poorly managed and equipped. Programs offered by these youth clubs are usually limited to simple sporting activities.


Health and Nutrition
In February, UNICEF handed over four Landrovers to the MoH to support mobile outreach health services in remote and isolated areas, and two refrigerated trucks for vaccines will be handed over shortly. Essential drugs and disposables worth USD 3 million for over 400 primary health care (PHC) facilities and neonatal wards of 17 hospitals will be delivered by end-March. Further supplies to the tune of USD 5 million are urgently required. Identification of the items at zero stock levels was facilitated through the drug management system developed by UNICEF and MoH, along with WHO, UNFPA, World Bank, Italian Cooperation and Care International.

With the vaccine requirement already secured for 2007, UNICEF must now urgently commence procurement for 2008. UNICEF will also need to supply MoH with essential micronutrients (iron, vitamin A / D) for children aged 0-12 months, while continuing to support growth monitoring and surveillance through training 600 doctors, nurses and village health workers.

UNICEF must continue to assist MoH in further upgrading neonatal units in hospitals with equipment and training in order to significantly improve neonatal care practices to prevent newborn deaths and sickness.

Water and sanitation
Since January, UNICEF has supplied all 343 primary and secondary schools and 33 clinics in Gaza with potable water, with needs identified at some 23 additional clinics. UNICEF also continues to assist with fuel and rent for a generator to operate a well for 150 poor families in Siafa enclave, one of the most isolated areas in Gaza. Training of 100 teachers and 2,000 students on issues related to water conservation and hygiene promotion has also been completed.

UNICEF has also supported improvements in either water or sanitation facilities at more than 70 schools and clinics. Construction continues at five municipal wells intended to serve 22,000 people with safe water, and work is ongoing to rehabilitate/construct wells in some 40 primary schools in the West Bank and Gaza. Sanitary facilities at 10 additional schools and 10 clinics also require extensive rehabilitation / reconstruction work. Some 25 primary schools have also been equipped with two-cubic-meter water tanks, and 15 hospitals/clinics with 3- or 10-cubic-metre water tanks.

UNICEF will rehabilitate / construct 14 water networks, 15 wells and boreholes, and install chlorination systems to provide safe drinking water to 1.4 million individuals in areas not reached by water networks.

UNICEF is helping to provide some 2,000 children living in some of oPt’s most deprived and isolated areas with opportunities for learning and recreation. The activities have generated strong community support.

UNICEF has targeted some 800 schools with child-friendly teaching and learning materials, including interactive math and science kits, emergency schools supplies, and a range of recreational material.

Over the 2007 summer, 1,000 teachers are expected to begin training on how to use the UNICEF-supported remedial worksheets that have been so useful in enabling children to catch up with their studies in the face of closures and other restrictions to movement. Teachers will also be oriented in using the materials included in UNICEF’s recreation kits, as well as in psychosocial counseling in emergency situations. In preparation for the school year beginning in September, UNICEF needs to order 20,000 school bags/stationary sets, and 50,000 uniforms and footwear for needy children.

Child protection
Since January 2007, 4,575 children and adolescents have participated in psychosocial activities aimed at reinforcing their capacity to protect themselves and to cope with violence. Some 622 children in distress received in-depth counseling, and more than 6,000 children participated in fun days intended to help them relieve some stress and interact with their peers. In parallel, some 4,900 caregivers have received training on how to better support children in distress and to promote a harmonious family environment, as well as on how to deal with their own stress, and emergency home and hospital visits have taken place following violent events.

These activities are implemented by the 12 psychosocial emergency teams operating in oPt (seven in the West Bank and five in Gaza, covering 12 out of 15 districts). UNICEF requires funding beyond March to continue these activities without interruption, as well as to set up two additional teams.

Five centres in Gaza city, Deir El-Balah, Khan Yunis, Hebron and Bethlehem provide psychological, social and legal assistance to victims of all types of violence, as does a toll-free counseling line. Since the beginning of the year, the centres have provided support to 1,150 children and the toll free line has received 67 calls. Another 2 should be opened shortly, again pending additional funding.

During this reporting period, mine risk education in the form of radio broadcasts reached an estimated 17,000 children and 64,000 adults.

Since January, after-school learning and recreational programmes are conducted daily in four adolescent-friendly spaces that have been equipped with computers, library books, sports and music equipment in Jenin and Jabalya refugee camps, Tulkarem City and Rafah. These programmes – situated in some of the most conflict-affected areas in oPt – are conducted by 64 trained facilitators and include language and math classes for low achievers and drop outs; as well as sports, music, drama, computer training and life skills based education. Around 1,280 adolescents participate each month.

Twenty more adolescent-friendly spaces are to be established in youth clubs throughout West Bank and Gaza Strip to reach a much larger number of adolescents. Training for facilitators is underway; 350 will receive extensive orientation in March. Some 600 peer-to-peer counseling sessions have been conducted in Gaza, reaching 4,000 adolescents. Four episodes of a TV program featuring psychosocial counselors addressing methods of dealing with post traumatic stress among children have also been broadcast.

Around 7,400 younger children also participate every month in recreational and play activities in 37 play areas (22 in the West Bank and 15 in Gaza Strip) established by UNICEF and partners. These activities are conducted twice a week by animators from the local community. Some 35 additional play areas are also to be rehabilitated to implement regular, structured activities for 35,000 younger children.


UNICEF’s CAP is budgeted at USD 25.8 million, based on the needs assessment framework completed in November 2006. The breakdown is as follows:


UNICEF expresses its gratitude to the Government of the Netherlands, which was the first to provide USD 1.85 million for 2007, and the Government of Sweden, which has indicated that funding is in the pipeline. The fact that very little funding has been received thus far and that activities are based on limited resources rolled-over from 2006, places UNICEF operations at serious risk. Funding is urgently required to ensure that UNICEF can continue to support basic, life-saving humanitarian interventions – particularly in terms of paediatric drugs, safe water and sanitation, emergency education materials, psychosocial support, and adolescent care. Details of the occupied Palestinian Territories’ emergency programme can be obtained from:

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