UNICEF has set up youth clubs to provide extracurricular activities,
safe indoor and outdoor play areas, and centres to provide literacy and
computer training for Palestinian children, who have been unable to
start school this year, due to the closure of the Palestinian
government – including the schools.
The lack of access to schools comes on top of an already very difficult year in which the number of children killed and injured are close to record highs. "Children continue to take the brunt of the unrest in the Occupied Palestinian Territories", UNICEF spokesman Michael Bociurkiw told a news briefing in Geneva today.
In Gaza, since the Israeli assault known as 'Summer Rains' began on 28 June, 58 children have been killed and 128 children injured, he said.
The main reason for the government strike is non-payment of civil service salaries. The Palestinian people have been particularly hard hit since Israel stopped tax transfers and other countries suspended contributions to the Palestinian Authority (PA) after the Hamas election victory in January.
Israel and international donors insist that Hamas, whose charter is committed to Israel's destruction, must subscribe to the principles of non-violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and accept previous agreements and obligations, including the UN-backed Roadmap plan.
Various UN agencies have warned regularly over the past months of a looming humanitarian emergency in the occupied Palestinian territories as food, health and education services crumble.
Of all the schools in the West Bank, 24 per cent are run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main provider of basic services to over 4.3 million registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, six per cent are private, and 70 per cent are Government-run, meaning that the majority of children attend public schools.
Those children who attend government schools have been unable to begin – school was supposed to begin in September. Now, a month later, it has yet to begin. This is particularly hard on senior high school students, who have a demanding year with rigorous courses and exams to prepare for university or trades, and each day they lose is a day they get further behind in their studies.
The UNICEF program will provide some support, but the focus will mainly be on younger students. Senior high school students will be once again left in the lurch.