Nine-year-old Ayman, a Palestinian, lives in the densely populated Muslim Quarter of East Jerusalem, in the West Bank. He takes Judo classes at the Abna Al-Quds community centre which is located next to the Old City Wall. The centre is one of two in the neighbourhood that is supported by UNICEF, offering a rare public space for children and adolescents to play and interact safely.
In March 2012, an estimated 270,000 Palestinians continue to live precariously in East Jerusalem – the portion of the ancient city of Jerusalem annexed by Israel in 1967 and part of the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The status of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem, considered residents but not citizens by Israel, remains unresolved: subject to revocation if residents stay elsewhere for too long and difficult to share with spouses from elsewhere or to pass on to spouses or children. Likewise, despite a severe housing shortage and crumbling infrastructure, Palestinians face extreme difficulties securing Israeli building permits in East Jerusalem, but structures built without permits are subject to demolition. And, if residents move to other parts of the West Bank, where rents are less expensive, they lose their right to return, or to work, in Jerusalem. Large Israeli settlements have long stood on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, but small settlements are now also encroaching into more central and densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods, increasing tensions and violence. And the city’s only refugee camp, Shufat, for some 20,000 Palestinians, is now separated from the rest of the city by the Israeli-built barrier wall that now separates much of Israel from the West Bank. Camp residents must therefore cross a security checkpoint to access the rest of the city. The impact of these living conditions on East Jerusalem’s Palestinian children is profound: an estimated 75 per cent live in poverty; rates for domestic and drug abuse, as well as other forms of violence, are high; school facilities are sub-standard; there is a shortage of at least 1,000 classrooms; and high school dropout rates are high, especially for boys aged 12-14. UNICEF supports five adolescent-friendly spaces in East Jerusalem, offering safe recreation areas, remedial learning and life-skills training. UNICEF also provides psychosocial support for children and women who are victims of violence and provides other monitoring and service assistance.
© UNICEF/NYHQ2012-0298/Giacomo Pirozzi