|© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0185/El Baba|
|Executive Director Ann M. Veneman with a girl at a UNICEF-supported psychosocial counselling session for children in Beit Lahia, Gaza.|
By Loa Magnusdottir
JERUSALEM, 9 March 2009 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman concluded a four-day visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel on Saturday with a call for stronger action to protect children.
Veneman met Palestinian and Israeli children affected by the recent hostilities in the region during visits to a school, paediatric hospital and counselling centre in Gaza, as well as a psychosocial support centre in Sderot.
During meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and with Israeli Minister of Social Welfare Isaac Herzog and the head of the Israeli Supreme Court, she stressed the need for stronger protection and unimpeded access of humanitarian supplies and personnel into Gaza.
Children severely affected
Veneman said Palestinian and Israeli children’s well-being and mental health have been severely affected by the conflict.
|© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0186/El Baba|
|The American International School in Beit Lahia, Gaza. The school was destroyed during the recent conflict there.|
She noted that children on both sides have borne the brunt for far too long, adding that they want and deserve a total, enduring end to the violence.
About a third of those killed or injured during the 22-day Gaza conflict last year were children, and many others lost caregivers and siblings. Following the destruction of many homes, schools, health facilities, shops, mosques and play areas, children in Gaza now lack adequate safe spaces for studies and recreation.
Meanwhile, the amount of aid allowed into Gaza daily is insufficient to meet the needs of children and their families. Items barred from entering Gaza include urgently needed construction materials to rebuild schools, hospitals, clinics and homes, as well as emergency repair supplies for water and sanitation networks.
Educational materials, recreational and sports equipment that are essential tools for helping children recover are also being blocked.
“Children have remarkable resilience,” said Veneman. “They need proper care, education, protection and support to bring back normalcy into their lives. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.”
6 March 2009:
UN Radio's Samir Imtair Aldarabi interviews UNICEF's Executive Director after her Gaza visit.
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