Japanese Members of Parliament visit children in the State of Palestine
JERUSALEM, 5 October 2016 – The Honourable Keiichi Koshimizu, Secretary of Japan’s Parliamentary League for UNICEF, and the Honourable Toshiko Abe, both members of the House of Representatives of Japan, recently completed a three-day mission during which they met with children living in the State of Palestine and observed a wide range of UNICEF-supported programmes assisting Palestinian children and vulnerable communities, funded by the Government and people of Japan.
Japan has provided UNICEF with over USD 67 million since 2004, including grants for emergency relief work during and following rounds of armed conflict.
These programmes help address the fundamental rights of Palestinian children and enable their access to essential services including to protection, education, water and sanitation, health and nutrition.
Providing access to safe drinking water
One of the results achieved thanks to Japan’s assistance has been to secure access to safe drinking water for many children in Palestine, where this precious resource remains scarce – 95 percent of water drawn from the aquifer below Gaza is unfit for human consumption, and access to water in the West Bank remains restricted.
In Shawawreh, a poor herding community located near Bethleem in the West Bank, Hon. Abe and Hon. Koshimizu helped distribute safe drinking water from a truck.
“I am pleased that Japanese tax payers’ money supports the provision of a steel tank where water can be secured at a third of the cost they used to pay,” Hon. Keiichi Koshimizu said as he poured water into the 100m3 steel tank installed by UNICEF and funded by Japan.
Japan’s assistance has enabled UNICEF and partners to build and rehabilitate water networks in the West Bank, benefiting nearly 55,000 people. It has also allowed for the distribution of safe drinking water to more than 70,000 people living in remote communities through a coupon system, and for the upgrade of the laboratory and water quality monitoring capacities of the Palestinian Water Authority.
In the Gaza Strip, the Members of Parliament visited a groundwater desalination plant built by UNICEF in Nuseirat Refugee Camp, providing 15,000 people with safe drinking water.
With support from Japan, UNICEF has installed 13 ground water desalination plants providing 95,000 people with safe, drinking water across Gaza.
Improving newborns’ survival
In Gaza City, Hon. Abe and Hon. Koshimizu were particularly impressed by the positive results achieved at Al Shifa Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Newborns' mortality rate in the unit dropped from 30% to 7% after it was rehabilitated thanks to funding from Japan.
“As a health professional, I am deeply touched by the Al Shifa Hospital neonatal department, where I could clearly see the impact of Japan’s contribution in reducing neonatal mortality,” Hon. Abe said.
New incubators funded by Japan helped fragile, premature newborns to survive. The funding also covered the training of 280 doctors and nurses on advanced neonatology and neonate care services.
The MPs also visited UNICEF programmes which help children fulfill their rights to education and to participation.
In Al Zeitun, a poor neighbourhood of Gaza City, girls generally have few opportunities to learn new, innovative skills due to social norms and lack of facilities. The MPs visited Al Majdal School, where the “Badir” programme funded by Japan engages teachers and adolescents in social innovation teams to design, plan and execute socially innovative self-sustained initiatives. The latter help widen adolescents’ potential and expand their horizons, while empowering them with the necessary tools and skills to create employment opportunities.
“Despite the on-going blockade in Gaza and the protracted crisis, children show courage and patience to learn, play, and develop their skills to become positive and responsible citizens in their society,” Hon. Koshimizu noted.
Thanks to support from Japan, six innovation labs were established – one in Gaza and five in the West Bank. They provide Palestinian adolescents with free and safe spaces to learn and develop their skills through innovative, non-formal learning opportunities, both in and out of school.
Hope for a better future
During their visit, the MPs met with senior Palestinian and Israeli officials, and were briefed on the overall situation of Palestinian children and the context in which they live.
In East Jerusalem, they visited the Wadi Hilweh center of Silwan, a very poor neighbourhood of East Jerusalem where they learned about the difficult situation faced by Palestinian children arrested by Israeli security forces, and the legal aid and psychosocial care programmes UNICEF supports in the center.
“Daily life is excruciatingly challenging for Palestinians, with checkpoints separating them from their families, farmlands, schools, hospitals and work,” Hon. Koshimizu said. “Yet, all children showed resilience and hope for a better future, and as Japanese people, we are committed to continuously investing in human resources across the world,’ he added.
June Kunugi, UNICEF Special Representative in the State of Palestine, accompanied the mission and stressed the importance of investing in Palestinian children.
“This mission is extremely critical for Palestinian children since it comes at a time where hope, courage and partnership are very much needed,’ she said. “The People and Government of Japan have continuously provided generous support to children, for which we are deeply grateful.”