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Israel and the occupied/autonomous territories: Children's safety in Jenin

02-05-2002 News Release 02/18




Now that the curfew has been lifted in Jenin refugee camp, children are rushing about everywhere. But the huge mounds of rubble where the youngsters roam are peppered with unexploded ordnance and munitions, and there is an urgent need to find a place where they can play safely. Meanwhile, mine-awareness programmes are being set up by the ICRC together with UNICEF and other specialist agencies.

The children in Jenin have many needs. Scores of youngsters became separated from their parents when the camp was in chaos; others saw clothes, toys and other possessions disappear under the rubble of destroyed homes. One eight-year-old, Yara Al-Qadu Ayosh, whose house was destroyed, said she had managed to borrow a friend's school uniform so that she can dress properly for school. Flashing a huge smile, she stood at her friend's side, clutching the grey-and-white striped pinafore in her arms.

Not all children will be able to resolve their difficulties so easily. Yara's friend, Nidal, confided that only 15 of the 35 pupils in their class have so far come back to school.

One woman said that she had looked after an 11-year-old boy for nine days during the incursion. His parents had fled the camp and left him behind in their haste to depart. He was finally reunited with his family when they returned to Jenin after the curfew had been lifted.

Several temporary sites for children's playgrounds have now been identified by the local authorities. The ICRC and UNICEF are trying to get two of them equipped as soon as possible. Not only will the children then have safe places to play, but the sites will also be usable as venues for mine-awareness sessions run by the Palestine Red Crescen t Society, 10 of whose volunteers have received basic mine-awareness training.