JERUSALEM, 18 October 2009 – World renowned actress Mia Farrow ended today a six-day mission to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel. The mission focused on children affected by conflict.
This is Farrow’s first visit to the region as a UNICEF Goodwilll Ambassador. The trip included visits to Gaza, Sderot, Tel Aviv, Jenin and Ramallah.
In Gaza, Farrow was joined by Egyptian award-winning actor Mahmoud Kabil, a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador representing the Middle East and Northern Africa. It was the second leg of Kabil’s visit to oPt, following a visit to the West Bank in September, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Farrow’s stop in Gaza comes nine months after military operations that killed over 1,400 Palestinians, including at least 350 children and injured over 5,000, among them 1,600 children. Thirteen Israelis were also killed, including three civilians. The fighting devastated swathes of the tiny, densely-populated Gaza Strip, which is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, nearly 60 per cent of them children.
The ongoing blockade, now in its 28th month, bans all but essential humanitarian goods into Gaza. This makes the proper reconstruction of homes, schools, health facilities and fragile water and sanitation systems virtually impossible. The formal economy has collapsed; unemployment has climbed above 40 per cent, and eight out of 10 families rely on food assistance. Farmland has been destroyed and the blockade equally bans seeds and other agricultural products.
“Children here are deeply traumatised and terrified of what will happen next,” Farrow said. “Homes, hospitals, schools and whole communities have been devastated. This is unacceptable and defies the principles of human rights, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and common decency.”
In Sderot, an Israeli city just a few kilometres from Gaza’s northern border, Farrow met with school children and a group of parents whose children had been killed or injured by rocket-fire from Gaza over the past years. She also met with parents and children living in a nearby kibbutz. “The children talked to me about the violence, their fear and their dream for peace,” Farrow said.
In Ramallah, Farrow was briefed on the conditions faced by children who had been detained by the Israeli Military and subsequently sentenced to prison. Farrow traveled to a nearby village, where she met with a former child detainee. She also talked with former child detainees processed through the Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs.
Farrow was also briefed on the closure regime enforced across the West Bank, including some 600 physical obstacles to movement such as checkpoints and roadblocks, as well as the 710 km. Barrier that Israel is building largely on Palestinian land. “Daily life is agonisingly difficult for Palestinians, with barriers and checkpoints separating them from their families, farmlands, schools, hospitals and places of work.”
Farrow also met with the Israel National Committee for UNICEF, one of 36 independent, non-governmental organisations across the world that advocate on behalf of children and raise funds to support UNICEF’s work. She also met with senior officials including Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Israel’s Minister of Social Welfare, Isaac Herzog, as well as civil society organisations and UNICEF partners operating in occupied Palestinian territory.
Note to the editors: Mia Farrow, internationally acclaimed actress and humanitarian activist, was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in September 2000. As a powerful advocate for children, she campaigns tirelessly for their rights around the world, with a special focus on children impacted by armed conflict. In 2008, Time magazine named her one of the most influential people in the world.
For further information, please contact:
Patrick McCormick, UNICEF New York,
Tel + 212 326 7452