At a glance: State of Palestine

UNICEF Regional Ambassador Mahmoud Kabil visits Palestinian children at risk

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UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador Mahmoud Kabil visited Bedouin families in Al Maleh, in the Jordan Valley.

By Monica Awad

JERUSALEM, 17 September 2009 – UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador and Egyptian actor Mahmoud Kabil has visited the Occupied Palestinian Territory to raise awareness about the situation of marginalized Palestinian children, especially Bedouins.

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Mr. Kabil met Bedouin families in Al Maleh in the West Bank, a small community situated close to a military base. Al Maleh is part of 'Area C', which is under Israeli military and administrative control. 

Families in Al Maleh live in tents under harsh weather conditions, and they face severe, chronic water shortages. (They have not been permitted to build houses and rainwater cisterns.) In addition, their children are often at risk because of the danger of unexploded ordnance.

A long way to school

Students from the community have to travel up to 12 miles every day to reach school. They often have to walk or use primitive and unsafe transport.

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A Bedouin child from the Al Maleh community in the Jordan Valley. Bedouins are amongst the most marginalized of West Bank children and lack access to many basic services.

Jibreel Abdel Rahman, 12, lives in Al Maleh and dreams of becoming a family physician. "My two brothers dropped out of school to help my father who is a herder. I want to continue my education," he said.

Drop-out rates among students in the community are high – particularly among girls, many of whom end up marrying at a very young age.

Evicted families

In Jerusalem, Regional Goodwill Ambassador Kabil visited the Al Ghawi and Hannoun families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. The families were evicted from their houses in August.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israeli settler organizations laid claim to these properties, and the courts ruled in their favour. At least 24 other buildings and their estimated 300 residents may be at risk of eviction.

Residents told Mr. Kabil that children who have been evicted, or whose homes have been demolished, may show symptoms such as withdrawal, depression and anxiety even six months after the incident.

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Mahmoud Kabil at the Jinsafut health clinic in the northern West Bank's Qalqilya district.

"I am shocked by what Bedouins and East Jerusalem families are faced with. This is a human tragedy," said Mr. Kabil.

Access restrictions

In the northern West Bank's Qalqilya district, Mr. Kabil visited the Ras Atiyeh girls' school and a local health clinic. He spoke with students, teachers and mothers who have problems reaching the school and clinic due to access restrictions within the territory. Mr. Kabil urged that the restrictions be lifted.

Ras Atiyeh school serves nearby communities who are living in 'seam zones', near the Barrier separating the West Bank and Israel. Many of the students from the communities of Ras Tira and Daba'a must pass through a gated military checkpoint on their way to and from school.

Student Fida Abdel-Fattah, 12, told Mr. Kabil that her daily commute frightens her. "In order to reach my school on time, I wake up at five in the morning every day," she said. "I hope they will remove the gate so that I can reach my school on time."

Mr. Kabil's visit also included meetings with President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Minister of Health Dr. Fathi Abu Moghli, Minister of Education and Higher Education Lamis Alami, and other Palestinian officials.


 

 

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16 September 2009: UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the visit of UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador Mahmoud Kabil to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
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