|UNICEF Regional Goodwill Ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa Mahmoud Kabil and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow stand in front of a destroyed building in the town of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip.|
By Monica Awad
NEW YORK, USA, 19 October 2009 – In her first official visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow joined fellow Goodwill Ambassador Mahmoud Kabil to witness the impact of conflict on children.
“The children appear traumatized. The teachers say that when they hear a loud noise they look to the sky and cry out and weep. They don’t know what the future holds. They deserve better,” Ms. Farrow said.
Ms. Farrow visited the Omar Bin Al Khattab school in Beit Lahia, which has been severely affected by conflict. To date, many of the 280 schools which suffered damage have remained without repair due to a lack of cement and other building materials. There are chronic shortages of basic supplies such as textbooks, stationery and chalk.
Farrow also visited Shifa hospital, which is the largest hospital in Gaza with 474 beds serving up to 800,000 people.
At the Women’s Training Centre in Rafah, Ms. Farrow and Mr. Kabil listened to the challenges young people face. And they met with children who are forced to work in tunnels. According to Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution, about 8,000 of the tunnel workers are children.
|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Mia Farrow meets a boy who was injured in conflict, during a visit to Madai Torani primary school in the city of Sderot.|
The same rights
Nearly nine months after the end of conflict, around 20,000 residents are still displaced. Homes, vital infrastructure and 280 damaged schools still cannot be repaired. Children remain at risk of death or injury from unexploded ordnance and there are ongoing security risks. Approximately more than half of the population of Gaza does not have daily access to safe water.
“The longstanding blockade on Gaza violates fundamental child rights to health, education and protection. Palestinian children have the same rights as all children everywhere and these rights need to be upheld,” Mr. Kabil said.
Ms. Farrow also visited Sderot, where she met with Israeli officials and heard testimonies from children and their families affected by violence and conflict.
“All children have a right to grow up in an environment that ensures their protection. Children of the region deserve to live in peace and security, with full respect to their human rights,” Ms. Farrow said.
During her visit to the West Bank, Ms. Farrow met at-risk adolescents at a UNRWA refugee camp in Jenin and visited the Al Aqabba school in Tubas, whose water and sanitation services were rehabilitated by UNICEF.
“All sides have an obligation to intensify their efforts to end the violence and seek lasting peace. The children have lost so much. They deserve a better childhood and a future of promise,” Ms. Farrow said.