UNICEF Middle East and North Africa Regional Director, Geert Cappelaere said during his visit to Palestine :” In the last decade, major strides have been made to improve the situation of children in the State of Palestine. Some indicators, such as near-universal immunization rates, and very high primary school enrollment rates, including for girls, are amongst the best in the Middle East and North Africa region.
“These gains are extremely fragile however, as children continue to face many obstacles accessing basic services and fulfilling their rights. These obstacles result from a combination of factors, most significant of which are the very high levels of violence Palestinian children are exposed and subjected to.
For example, 59 Palestinian children were killed in 2018 alone. Thousands of children face challenges in safely accessing schools. Over 90% of Palestinian children say they experience violence at home or in their schools. Violence has sadly become the norm for too many Palestinian children.
“I have spoken to many girls and boys during my current mission to the State of Palestine, and the message I kept hearing from these children is one of determination and perseverance — a drive to fulfil their innate potential, to succeed despite all odds and challenges.
“But the challenges are many. Out of a population of 4.8 million people in the State of Palestine, some 2.3 million, nearly half, are children. More than 1 million of them need humanitarian assistance. In the Gaza Strip alone, some 60 per cent of youth remain unemployed, and approximately 80 per cent of all families there require humanitarian assistance. In Area C of the West Bank, more than 20,000 people are not connected to any water network or have access to improved toilet facilities.
“Such hardship means that Palestinian children are not being given a fair chance. The coping mechanisms of these children are fast eroding, with many increasingly at risk of being pushed to negative coping mechanisms, including dropping out of school, involvement in child labour, substance abuse, and early marriage. Maintaining and even further increasing investments in teachers, health personnel and social workers in West Bank and Gaza, critical for children’s health, education and social welfare, is not a luxury, but a must. Civil society must continue to be allowed to play its critical complimentary role in service delivery and advocacy for children and children’s rights.
“As signatories to the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), the State of Israel and the State of Palestine have the responsibility to ensure that Palestinian children living in the West Bank and Gaza are provided an environment in which they can reach their innate potential.
“If they, and the de facto authorities in Gaza, live up to their responsibilities, the children’s rights can be fulfilled.
“Palestinian children have shown that they have great determination and perseverance, fundamental to have a prosperous future. The drive of children in the State of Palestine to develop innovative solutions to the very daunting daily circumstances that they and their communities often face is an inspiration, and a reminder that we need to continue supporting them to have a brighter more peaceful future. UNICEF will never give up on them and will continue engaging in constructive dialogue with all actors concerned.”