In the West Bank, where half of the population is under the age of 15, a whole generation is growing up coping with violence, fear and restrictions. The situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories takes a great economic, social and psychological toll on children and families.
The European Commission is working towards the protection and promotion of the rights of the children all over the world, including in emergency and crisis situation. Special attention is being paid to psychosocial support, to help traumatized children to face up to the challenges of their daily lives and to restore their childhood.
Some of the war wounds are not visible: fear, anxiety, self-deprecation, difficulty in trusting others, depression… Through psychosocial support programmes, the European Commission's Department for Humanitarian aid and Civil protection (ECHO) is trying to give Palestinian children a chance to be children: through game activities, they are given a space to play and are encouraged to develop relationships based on confidence and tolerance.
One of the best therapies is to have fun. Most of our projects include activities that most children in the world take for granted: potato-sack races, face painting, balloons, colouring… In Qalqilya, West Bank, a group of 100 children visited for the first time the only zoo in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, thanks a UNICEF project supported by ECHO: "I want to see the monkey and try to feed him bananas", said Ala', 8. "I like the giraffe and the lion" said Ayman, 12.
This year, ECHO celebrated its 20th anniversary with about 3.000 Palestinian children at Hebron sports hall, in the West Bank. Children in blue and yellow played a match against their parents, teachers, caregivers and authorities. Guests and players included Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad, two State Ministers, the Head of the European Union Delegation in Jerusalem John Gatt-Rutter, the Head of the ECHO Office in Jerusalem Mamar Merzouk. But most of all, the guest list included 3.000 children eager to play, run and smile like any other kid.