UN agency launches summer camps for children in Gaza with joy, relaxation … a special report by Sanaa Kama
With the start of school breaks in Gaza, many children have enrolled in summer camps set up by UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in an effort to alleviate conflict-incurred psychological problems.
As many as 120,000 children aged from six to 14 have participated in the summer camp program which started on Monday in 83 UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip, the UN agency said in a statement.
The camp runs for four weeks, and children can play trampolines, bouncy castles and ball games, in addition to painting and handicrafts activities.
“This camp came after a long academic season which involved a lot of pressure,” Jana Al-Najjar, an 11-year-old girl from Gaza, told Xinhua at the Jabalia Elementary Common School in northern Gaza.
“It gives me an opportunity to play, have fun, meet new friends and relax,” she said, adding the atmosphere is “wonderful” while playing sports helps the children gain self-confidence.
Salma Mohammed, another Gazan girl, told Xinhua that she used to play for hours in summer camps, a place that helps children to explore their talents and meet new friends.
Her mother Ahlam Hana said sports and cultural activities are a must for children in the Palestinian enclave, as they live in an area plagued by political and economic instability.
“The summer camps are a way to reintegrate children into society after a long year of study and the wars they lived through, and schools are the safe place in Gaza in the eyes of children,” Hana said.
Ben Majekodunmi, UNRWA officer-in-charge in Gaza, told Xinhua that last year’s military attack on the Gaza Strip damaged many children’s psychological states, which prompted the UN agency to launch summer camps as a relief measure.
“It is very important for refugee children to enjoy their basic rights to live, educate and play in a safe and stimulating environment like all children in the world,” he noted.
According to a UNRWA study conducted in the wake of heavy fighting in Gaza between Palestinian factions and Israel in May 2021, 35 percent of surveyed first-grade children showed traumatic reactions.
Apart from calming children, the summer camps also provide 2,750 part-time job opportunities for graduates of both sexes in the field of psychological support and health education, according to UNRWA.