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At a glance: State of Palestine

Psychosocial care designed to help children affected by ongoing conflict

© UNICEF OPT/2005/Sabella
Boys in Jenin, West Bank, playing a bouncing game are participating, along with 400 children, in a recreational festival with psychosocial activities.

By Sabine Dolan

JERUSALEM, West Bank, 29 November 2005 - In Hebron’s Al Mutalabi school, boys aged between 5 and 14 are busy making paper masks and traditional ‘Tarbouch’ hats in the courtyard.

“I feel happy because I usually don’t have much opportunity to play and have fun. These things are unusual for me now,” says Fares Danah, 9, who just started 4th grade in this West Bank City where he lives with his parents and five siblings. This is the second time Fares has participated in the school’s psychosocial activities designed to help children living on the frontlines.

Helping children deal with violence

© UNICEF OPT/2005/Sabella
In an attempt to help restore psychological well being for children and their families, UNICEF, in partnership with the European Commission and NGO’s, has developed psychosocial programs.

Palestinian children living in Gaza and the West Bank have been exposed to continuous stress and violence throughout the conflict that has dragged on for more than five years.

In an attempt to help restore psychological well-being to children and their families, UNICEF, in partnership with the European Commission, the Austrian Development Agency and NGOs, has developed psychosocial programs which offer drawing, singing and game-playing. These simple activities represent a rare opportunity for many Palestinian children. They are designed to boost their capacity to deal with violence through games, expression, and peer support.

Special activities designed for children exposed to violence

Since January 2005, some 23,032 children have participated in activities aimed at reinforcing children’s capacity to cope with violence and protect themselves and more than 13,000 care givers have been equipped with skills on how to support children in distress and promote a harmonious family environment. Increasingly, psychosocial projects are reaching out to teenagers with a focus on peer support groups.

© UNICEF OPT/2005/Sabella
Children in Jenin, West Bank, draw during a psychosocial activities class aimed at reinforcing their capacity to cope with violence.

UNICEF has also been organizing psychosocial workshops for parents to sustain and strengthen the family unit, one of the most important components in the psychosocial recovery and well-being of children. “In light of the evolving situation on the ground, UNICEF’s psychosocial teams have gradually introduced the issues of domestic violence and abuse in their sessions with both children and parents,” says UNICEF Child Protection Officer, Anne Grandjean. “Psychosocial teams have proven an appropriate and effective entry point to tackle violence in general.”

 A total of twelve psychosocial teams are currently operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT): seven in the West Bank and five in Gaza. Each team is composed of 15 to 20 social workers and psychologists who have been selected with UNICEF support.




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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