Rights & Wrongs: A grim future for children of the intifada

HALIMA is four, and lives with her 22-year-old mother and her grandparents in a refugee camp on the West Bank. Her parents are divorced; of the three uncles living with them, one is in prison and another in hiding. Born as the intifada began, she has seen her home raided repeatedly by the army, her mother beaten up and her grandparents sprayed in the eyes with gas from hand-held canisters. She was in the house when soldiers threw two of these tear gas canisters through a window; now she has throat infections.

The trauma suffered by the 800,000 Palestinian children - half of whom are under 15 - growing up on the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been the subject of numerous reports in recent years. The picture they all paint is grim. The daily round of violence, confrontation and collective punishment has led to behavioural problems as well as high rates of anxiety and depression. Teenagers despise parents who are too servile to the authorities and small children have recurrent nightmares. For most of these children, the intifada, in which they have become both the heroes and the victims of suppression, has become a way of life. Many grow up welcoming the idea of martyrdom.

Less widely known are the more seemingly prosaic educational, health and material hardships inflicted on the Palestinian children, who have seen a severe deterioration in their standards of living, aggravated by the Gulf war. Income has dropped by 40 to 50 per cent in the past four years.

A report, Growing Up with Conflict, published by the Save the Children Fund this week, describes the children as losing half their school days due to repeated curfews and school closures. The report speaks of classes with more than 50 pupils and of a 'skills bottleneck' because most students are three or four grades behind. Overcrowded conditions at home and inadequate water and sanitation services have taken a dire toll on their health. While diphtheria, tetanus and polio have been eliminated, epidemics of measles and brucellosis are common. Acute respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases account for more than half of child deaths.

Of the 1,049 Palestinians killed during the intifada by the Israeli security forces, almost a quarter have been children under 16. Maltreatment and even torture of Palestinian children who are detained is frequently reported. The SCF report estimates that between 15,000 and 20,000 children have disabilities, many of them caused by injuries.

The fragmentation of various services is of serious concern to the agencies working on the West Bank. Time and many resources are wasted because of lack of coordination. All await anxiously the outcome of the peace talks.

Only if the violence stops and the Palestinians are allowed to take control of their own services, do they see any reasonable future for the children.

Even so, few are optimistic. Facing displacement, occupation, harsh suppression by the Israeli authorities and the repercussions of the Gulf war, the SCF report concludes that 'conditions for children have deteriorated rapidly and are likely to continue to do so'.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Sport
football
News
Hillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test