UN sets up camps for Palestinian children hit by school strike in West Bank

Palestinians students demonstrate in the West Bank city of Ramallah, calling for the government to solve the salary issue so that their teachers will end their strike and start the new academic semester, 20 September 2006. (MaanImages/ Fadi¬†Arouri)

With 500,000 Palestinian children out of school due to a strike in the West Bank that has left most public schools closed, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has set up youth clubs to provide extracurricular activities, safe indoor and outdoor play areas, and centres to provide literacy and computer training.

The lack of access to schools come on top of an already very difficult year in which the number of children killed and injured are close to record highs as youngsters continue to take the brunt of the unrest in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, UNICEF spokesman Michael Bociurkiw told a news briefing in Geneva today.

In Gaza, since 28 June, 58 children have been killed and 128 children injured, he said.

The main reason for the strike is non-payment of civil service salaries. The Territories have been particularly hard hit since Israel stopped tax transfers and other countries suspended contributions to the Palestinian Authority (PA) after the Hamas election victory in January.

Israel and international donors insist that Hamas, whose charter is committed to Israel’s destruction, must subscribe to the principles of non-violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and accept previous agreements and obligations, including the UN-backed Roadmap plan providing for two states living side by side in peace.

Various UN agencies have warned regularly over the past months of a looming humanitarian emergency in the occupied Palestinian territories as food, health and education services crumble.

Of all the schools in the West Bank, 24 per cent are run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main provider of basic services to over 4.3 million registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, six per cent are private, and 70 per cent are Government-run, meaning that the majority of children attend public schools.

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