A Vision for the Future: Meeting the
special needs of Palestinian children

On Monday 26 October, Interpal hosted an event in parliament
on the special needs of Palestinian children. This event was sponsored by Rt
Hon Stephen Timms MP and over 60 people attended, including MPs and Lords,
journalists, human rights advocates, academics and NGO workers.

The
CEO of Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), Tony Laurance,
spoke about MAP’s
extraordinary work with Palestinian children across the region. He reminded the
audience that every 10 year old child in Gaza has witnessed three wars.
Children have to deal with the siege, damage to their homes and schools, the
loss of family members and severe, grinding poverty. He emphasised the high maternal
mortality rate in Gaza; which has worsened recently for the first time in 50
years – a worrying indicator. He also spoke about the situation in the refugee
camps in Lebanon which is as bad as in the West Bank and Gaza, with squalor,
poverty and a lack of opportunities for jobs, businesses and property rights.

Interpal’s
Chairman, Ibrahim Hewitt,
talked about the charity’s role and activities in
the occupied territories and the refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. He spoke
about the situation in Gaza, which has become even more restrictive, with
increased targeted attacks and the ongoing siege. Ninety percent of water in
Gaza is unfit for human consumption and, in hospitals, most emergency medical
supplies are unavailable. Interpal has been fortunate to work with partners
that include MAP and United Nations. The Interpal and UNRWA link goes back
years and has resulted in some groundbreaking projects.

The keynote speaker was UNRWA’s Director of Advocacy and
Strategic Communications, Chris Gunness,
who introduced the Vision
Project
, an exciting and innovative project that will launch in 2016.
The project will improve access to education and future opportunities for blind
and visually impaired children in Gaza. Interpal’s Trustees have pledged to support
the project with $500,000 (the largest single grant ever made by the charity) after
hearing about the pilot project featuring 8-year-old Mohammad in Gaza, who was
blinded when an Israeli shell hit his home during the 2014 assault on Gaza.

The
situation in Palestine was described as a result of wider political failure in
the international community. Unless there is a just and durable solution based
on international law and UN resolutions, with the consultation of refugees,
peace will not happen.

The panellists were asked questions from the audience, who wanted
to know more about perceived media bias, the consequences of withdrawing aid
from Palestine to force Israeli responsibility and the water crisis in Gaza.

Read
more about Interpal’s work with Palestinian children and the Vision Project