Hope amid extreme hardship for Palestinian children
Gaza is a very tough place to be a child. Nearly one million children are blockaded into just 365 square kilometres in Gaza – an area smaller than the Isle of Wight.
Many have been traumatised by the fighting and some children in our programmes have been injured and even killed.
At a health and nutrition centre supported by Save the Children, I met mums who were getting basic food for their malnourished children.
One in ten children are stunted in Gaza, their families unable to afford basic fruit and vegetables that will help them to physically and mentally develop.
In Gaza, teachers face overcrowded classrooms, with children eager to learn. But there aren’t enough classrooms for them – the UN says they need 230 more schools to accommodate Gaza’s children.
So, children study in 3 shifts. Two little boys I met at an amazing library supported by Save the Children said they wanted to be a doctor and pilot respectively.
The budding pilot said he wanted to fly from Gaza airport – but I know there is no airport to fly from and sadly he may never pass through the checkpoint to complete his studies.
Life is also tough in the West Bank. One Bedouin community I met – part of the Jahalin tribe – brought alive the tragedy and trial facing many children.
Their little school attended by 85 children is on its last legs as its facing demolition. The school was set up by the community after they could no longer afford the bus fare for their children to Jericho and after two children were killed hitch hiking on the road.
The community had lost their income when they were banned from grazing their animals and banned from accessing Jerusalem’s market to sell their wares.
On top of this they have now lost access to their only source of clean water. This little school is a beacon of hope for the community. Destroying it would be a tragedy not just for the 85 children who attend but for the cause of hope and for justice.
Despite these challenges there is hope. At the Qalandiya Girls School, Save the Children supports a group of amazing girls working to see change in their communities.
They want to travel and study and make a real difference to their communities. But they worry about shootings, arrests and checkpoints and how, as girls, their lives are more difficult than boys.
They want to stop early marriage and be able to choose their career. They are determined and I came away inspired by their hope of a better future. I hope one day soon we’ll see Israeli and Palestinian children play together side by side.
Justin was accompanied on his trip to Gaza and the West Bank to visit Save the Children programmes by former foreign secretary David Miliband, and Telegraph columnist Mary Riddell.