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At a glance: State of Palestine

Coming to terms with grief in Nablus: ‘Fatima helped me’

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0174/Pirozzi
Fatima Alshopy speaks to Maha Qatouny (right) at a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus. Ms. Qatouny was hit by a stray bullet in her home; seven months pregnant at the time, she suffered a miscarriage.

By Chris Niles

NABLUS, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 9 June 2009 – Several times a month, Fatima Alshopy navigates the narrow streets of the Number One Refugee Camp in the West Bank city of Nablus to visit Maha Qatouny, a mother of three who recently suffered a terrible loss.

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"Around 2 a.m., I woke up to intensive gun fire," Ms. Qatouny recalled. "I heard my kids screaming. I walked a short distance to the bathroom. A bullet came through the window, entered my back and went out through my abdomen. I was seven months pregnant."

Coping with loss
Ms. Qatouny was lucky to escape with her life. For months she was in pain, struggling to cope with the loss of her unborn baby. When Ms. Alshopy first visited, her children had fallen behind in school and she was unable to leave her home.

"I started to be more and more nervous," said Ms. Qatouny.

Ms. Alshopy is part of a network of trained counsellors funded by UNICEF and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department, or ECHO. Their backing has enabled local partners to provide coordinated assistance to Palestinians who suffer from the effects of continuing violence.

'A qualified team'
"We have succeeded in creating a qualified team, which is able to intervene in emergency and crisis situations," said Nablus YMCA Director Mustafa Oumar.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2009-0178/Pirozzi
Three girls smile while playing with a hula hoop at an adolescent-friendly space at Beitfourik village, east of Nablus. The UNICEF-supported centre offers educational and recreational activities to 70 girls.

UNICEF and ECHO have been working together in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 2003. Their programmes assist children directly – providing safe spaces where they can learn and play without threat of harm, for example – as well as help families to deal with the toll that violence takes on them and their personal relationships.

This ongoing commitment has enabled a well trained network of experts to effectively reach more Palestinians in need.

Help on many fronts

"The funding that we get from UNICEF helps us on many fronts," noted Mr. Oumar. "We had difficulties, before UNICEF, to build and create resources such as training, implementing programmes for children and funding psychological training."

Because of Fatima Alshopy's visits, Ms. Qatouny is slowly coming to terms with her grief and shock. Ms. Alshopy has also counselled the grieving woman's husband and sons.

"Fatima helped me. She became my friend. I got used to her," said Ms. Qatouny. "Thank God, I feel better now."




UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on how a young mother in the West Bank found new hope with help from UNICEF and ECHO.
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