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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas