By Rafa Musmar
Life is not easy for children growing up in Palestine today. Khalend Mansour, Director of Communications for the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), talked about some of the dangers young Palestinians face.
“A Palestinian child has to cross at every checkpoint, and be exposed to violence either by Israeli soldiers or Israeli settlers and sometimes Palestinian militias as well. I mean you have a lot of violence and guns in the vicinity of kids that you should not have and that leaves sometimes indelible marks on the children,” said Mr. Mansour.
The majority of Palestinians are under the age of 18 and according to the World Health Organization these children are especially vulnerable to emotional trauma and mental illness, with up to 80 percent of children suffering from some level of post traumatic stress disorder.
“The reality will only change with a political solution” said Mr. Mansour, “but what we are trying to do is mitigate a little bit of the impact.”
UNICEF works with local NGO’s in Gaza and the West Bank, focusing on the psychosocial needs of Palestinian children. UNICEF also advocates for Palestinian children detained by the Israeli authorities and supports local mental health and medical services.
Part of Mr. Mansour’s job is to bring the cause of Palestinian children to the attention of policy makers and the international media. He points out that UNICEF does its best to work with many different actors– not an easy task. “You have governments that you want to work with in the field. You have donor governments, donor private. You have the children you are trying to work with. You have the families. And, it’s rare that all these actors will agree on one issue. And your job is to bring them all together in what you think is the best interest of the child. ”
*How do you think that UNICEF can better support Palestinian children?