Gaza’s children share their dreams and fears

In December 2010, 200 children from Al Zarqa, one of the poorest areas of the Gaza Strip, participated in a drawing project which has now reached the UK in a unique exhibition organized by young British activists and sponsored by Oxfam, Made in Europe and the NIDA Trust.

The exhibition, which is currently on show at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel (until 15 May – it will be launched elsewhere in the near future), provides a window into Palestinian children’s hopes and fears for the future. Their neighbourhood was damaged during the Israeli war on Gaza in 2009, and the trauma is still evident in some of the drawings. But there is also hope as expressed in scenes of playgrounds, the sea and nature.
Drawing by Eynas Khalid Shabit, nine
People who attend are encouraged to show their support for Gaza children’s rights by posting copies of the drawings – that have been turned into postcards – to their local MPs, as the Israeli blockade of Gaza will be reaching its fifth year.

“I hope our actions will improve the lives of the children and ensure they have a future for themselves and the next generations,” said Shannon Green, 17, one of a group of 20 young people who organized the exhibition.

Zahra Ahmad, 17, hopes the exhibition will make many people aware of the problems surrounding children’s rights in Gaza.

“This is the first step in making a difference for these young people,” she said.
Drawing by Arbaj Alaa al-Safadi, 10
Six-year-old Osama Nouaf al-Mubayid from Al Zarqa, who participated in the drawing event, said: “It's important that children in the world share their drawings so that we know each others’ problems.”

Sara Almer from Oxfam’s Gaza head office said: “The lives of Palestinian children are still marred by the destruction they have witnessed. We want the younger generation of Gaza to hang on to this craving for life and hope for the future.”

Pictures and case studies of children in Gaza are also displayed, highlighting the obstacles they face in accessing basic rights such as education, play and healthcare.

The show is part of a scheme run by Oxfam, the Muslim campaign group Made in Europe and the educational organization, the NIDA Trust.

The exhibition at the London Muslim Centre, 46-92 Whitechapel Road, runs until May 15, and is expected to be launched again soon.
Drawing by Amani al-Issi, 11


Childhood under blockade

• 99% of 15-24 year olds are literate. However, only 20% passed 6th grade Arabic, English, Maths & Sciences in 2011 (compared to 50% passing in the West Bank).

• The United Nations turned away 40,000 eligible children from the schools it runs in 2010/2011 due to an acute classroom shortage.

• In 2011 94% of UN schools and 78% of government schools operated a double-shift system (with pupils attending school for only the morning or the afternoon).

• 52% of households are food insecure (including over 90,000 children).

• Approximately 10% of children under 5 suffer chronic malnutrition.

• 80% of families in Gaza are aid dependent.

• In 2010 of the 3851 permits requested to travel abroad for specialised medical treatment 3546 were granted. 294 were delayed, 11 were denied and four children aged under three died whilst waiting.

• Last January, 94% (847 patients) of all patient applications for permits were approved, an improvement over the 2011 average of almost 90%. Of the remaining 6% of all patients, 0.6% (6 cases) were denied permission to cross Erez checkpoint. Another 5.4% (49 patients, including 9 children) had their applications delayed beyond their hospital appointment. 19 patients were called for interrogation by the Israeli General Security Services (GSS) as a condition for their permit application. Following their interrogation, 14 patients were still waiting for a GSS response, 4 were approved a permit, and one was denied.

• Delays in processing applications can be critical for patients who are waiting for urgent medical treatment, the World Health Organisation says. During 2011, three patients died before receiving permits to travel through Erez crossing to access the hospitals they have been referred to. Since 2008, 70 referral patients were reported to have died before reaching medical care outside Gaza (50 referrals through Erez crossing and 20 through Rafah border crossing).

• By early 2011, medication used to treat asthma in children was completely out of stock and unavailable at all primary health care centres in Gaza.

• In March 2012 alone, one child and one woman were killed by Israeli troops, and 48 Palestinians – of whom 28 were children – were injured.

• In 2011 Oxfam reported that 40 Palestinian civilians were killed and 407 Palestinian civilians were injured

• 95% of piped water in Gaza is contaminated with nitrates and chlorides. These are particularly dangerous for the health of bottle-fed infants and young children.

• At least 1/3 of households are not connected to improved sanitation services.

60 million litres of sewage are discharged into the sea every day

• 17.8% of primary schools students work to help support their families or pay for school expenses.

• In 18 months between 2010-2011, 30 young people aged 13-17 were shot whilst in the ‘buffer zone’. In March 2012, Israeli troops did 7 incursions inside the land and maritime buffer zone and 3 incidents of shelling, 4 incidents of shooting and 1 of ground leveling were recorded by humanitarian organizations.

Watch: Childhood Under Blockade



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