At a glance: State of Palestine

Children welcome EC Commissioner to ECHO/UNICEF psychosocial programme near Ramallah

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF OPT/2005/Sabella
A Palestinian girl has her face painted by Mr. Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development & Humanitarian Aid, during his visit to Qalandia Refugee camp.

By Michael Bociurkiw

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 29 November 2005 - Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, visited an ECHO-funded UNICEF project in the West Bank on Tuesday, to see how children are being helped to overcome psychosocial distress.

As part of a three-day visit to the region, Mr. Michel visited several projects funded by ECHO (the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department) – including this one in Qalandia Camp near Ramallah – where UNICEF and its partners work with children living in the midst of a conflict that has dragged on for several years.

The UNICEF project has received 500,000 Euros and focuses on children who have been affected by ongoing violence. Since the start of the year, more than 40,000 children aged between six and 12 and living in the West Bank and Gaza, have benefitted from the ECHO-funded psychosocial projects.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF OPT/2005/Sabella
Mr. Louis Michel plays with children during his visit to Qalandia Refugee camp to witness the psychosocial activities implemented by UNICEF with funds from ECHO.

On Tuesday, Mr. Michel saw how activities like face painting, story-telling, sports and drawing help children overcome distress.

During the one-hour visit, Mr. Michel spent about 15-minutes talking with a group of four children, most of whom spoke about a lack of freedom of movement and about how stress robs them of sleep and makes them fearful.

Shireen, a nine-year-old in the 4th grade, spoke of how she would like to be free and fly like a bird.

Mr. Michel told the children: “You are not alone and we will help you. If I am here it is because I know you are suffering a lot. And we came here to help you.

“I am sure the young Israeli boys and girls don’t want conflict and maybe later you’ll be friends,” he added.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF OPT/2005/Sabella
Mr. Louis Michel shakes hands with Palestinian girls.

After the visit, Mr. Michel commented on ECHO’s global partnership with UNICEF.

“The professionalism and expertise of UNICEF makes UNICEF one of the best operators of the EU projects and policies.”

One of 19 refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, Qalandia camp is home to more than 10,000 people, of which more than half are under the age of 18. The vast majority of camp residents live below the poverty line.

With the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories continuing to give serious cause for concern, the European Commission is putting the final touches to an 8.3 million Euro humanitarian aid grant for the Palestinians.

Since 2003 the European Commission has granted almost 500 million Euros a year to help people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Since the second Intifada in September 2000 the European Commission has granted 191 million Euros in humanitarian aid for the Palestinians.


 

 

Video

29 November 2005: UNICEF correspondent Rachel Bonham Carter reports on the visit of Mr Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid to the West Bank.

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29 November 2005:
UNICEF New York correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on UNICEF’s psychosocial programs in the West Bank.

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