|© UNICEF Lebanon/2011/Ismail|
|Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon, delivering a school bag to a student in Yabad School in Beirut, Lebanon.|
By Patricia Khoder
BEIRUT, Lebanon, 27 September 2011 - Noha Sbahi, 11, lives in Beirut on the outskirts of the Shatila Palestinian camp. Every morning, she walks to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) school of Yabad with her eight-year-old sister Sawsan. At the top of her sixth-grade class, Noha is an excellent student, who dreams of becoming a math teacher one day.
Unfortunately, even if her family could afford to rent a house outside the camp, Noha would remain bound to her impoverished community. Struggling to make ends meet, her father works as a mechanic, while her mother stays at home to raise the family. Noha’s sole hope for the future is dependent on her continued education.
Message of solidarity
Like all the youth in the twelve official Palestinian camps of Lebanon, Noha is currently benefiting from various UNICEF programs which support children living in harsh conditions. One of them is an initiative launched in cooperation with UNRWA and the Italian National Committee for UNICEF. It provides all students in the country’s Palestinian camps between grades one through 12 with school bags, notebooks, textbooks and other supplies to meet each student’s specific needs.
The $270,000 project is completely funded by the Italian Committee for UNICEF. Much of that money was collected through donations from Italian children. The initiative aims to reach more than 33,000 Palestinian students in 68 schools.
“Despite the crisis in Europe, the Italian children want to send a message of solidarity,” said Donata Lodi, Head of National Advocacy and International Relations at the Italian Committee for UNICEF. ”They want to say that they remember their brothers and sisters in the Palestinian camps of Lebanon.”
A better future
Noha proudly opens her school bag stamped with the UNICEF and UNRWA logo and points out the items she just received for the coming year - pens, pencils, a rubber eraser, a sharpener, a geometry kit and several copybooks.
“Each year in September, during the back-to-school period, we have a number of expenses,” said Noha’s mother, Sabrine Sbahi. “We have to buy new pants, sneakers and socks for the kids. The UNICEF initiative helps a lot. We can spend money for the kids elsewhere. And the quality of the items distributed is really good.”
Annamaria Laurini, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon, highlighted the need to promote quality education as an essential part of the initiative. “We are striving to provide the most marginalised and poorest children with the same opportunities as those who are more fortunate, so they can build a better future for themselves,” she said.
'Back on Track' website