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Occupation magazine - Life under occupation
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Tens of Thousands of Palestinian Children at Risk of Forced Displacement in OPT
Palestine News Agency
28 Oct 2009
Tens of thousands of Palestinian families are at risk of being driven from their homes as a result of forced displacement in the occupied territory, Save the Children UK warned today. More than half of those affected are children.
Whilst most attention has focused on home demolitions and community evictions, new research by the children`s charity has revealed intolerable living conditions are driving families to abandon their land and homes, even though most will be worse off once they do so.
The survey carried out in high risk areas including most of the rural West Bank and Gaza border area or `buffer zone`, showed residents enduring extreme hardships - daily shortages of food and water, high unemployment, insecurity, family separation and children unable to go to school.
`We always knew that life was tough in these areas, but this new research has shown just how bad things are. Many families we spoke to were at breaking point,” says Salam Kanaan, Country Director for Save the Children UK in the OPT. “Without a secure future, children`s lives are blighted. Constant fear of upheaval, combined with a daily struggle for basics, has left children depressed and traumatized.”
Almost half of Palestinians living in high-risk areas in OPT have been forced from their homes since 2000, the last major period of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
The survey highlights a pattern of extreme neglect and isolation of the Palestinian communities. Amongst its findings were: Only 37% of people living in high-risk areas have enough to eat, compared with 70% of people living elsewhere.
In the surveyed areas of the West Bank, 92% of families have no access to healthcare, compared to 34% in the rest of the occupied territory.
Only 2% of people in the surveyed areas of the West Bank have access to sanitation, compared with 61% outside the area.
In Gaza, only 9% of families living in or near the Buffer Zone said they felt safe and secure, compared with 55% outside of the area.
The aid agency warns that families living in these high risk areas are poorer and more vulnerable than anywhere else in the OPT, yet humanitarian assistance is still not reaching those most in need. Movement and access restrictions as well as difficulties coordinating with Israeli authorities are the major obstacles to help getting through.
Salam Kanaan says: “It is unacceptable that so little real assistance is getting through when children are at such high risk. The humanitarian community, development agencies and the Palestinian Authority must make these vulnerable communities an urgent priority through a comprehensive and co-ordinated response.”
Save the Children UK urged Israel to halt actions that result in displacement, including the demolition of Palestinian homes, and clearly define a policy for the Gaza buffer zone that is in line with its international legal obligations to protect civilians under occupation.
Save the Children UK’s research was funded by the Humanitarian Aid department of the European Commission as part of its project: Prevention and protection – a programmatic response to forced displacement in the OPT.
The survey was conducted in June 2009 for Save the Children UK by Near East Consulting (NEC) in the West Bank and Gaza, excluding East Jerusalem. The survey included 1,529 individuals in randomly selected locations throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Of these, a total of 472 random interviews were conducted in high risk communities in Gaza and Area C of the West Bank. Whilst displacement risks are high in East Jerusalem, this area was not surveyed because of the different policy and legal issues which pertain in this area, compared to the rest of the West Bank and Gaza.
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