The children of Gaza are caught between a blockade on the one hand and extremism on the other. As a result, the environment in which they are being raised and making life choices is characterised by poverty, violence, and very few opportunities for recreation and the associated positive development benefits. It is an environment in which extremism can easily thrive.
For the fifth year in a row, UNRWA has provided a critically important human development opportunity for 250,000 children in Gaza during the summer months. For six weeks, children participate in games, sports, arts, and theatre. Based on community demand, the 2011 Summer Games also incorporated games and activities to help children learn English. Summer Games provides the rare opportunity for children to explore their creativity, develop skills, and build positive relationships, all critical elements of a healthy developmental process.
Throughout the 2011 Summer Games, the children of Gaza demonstrated their extraordinary talents, as well as their determination in the face of opposition. Despite an attack by militants on the UN facility hosting the Games in July, the kids continued against the odds and set four world records, including the largest number of people flying parachutes from the ground, the largest number of people dribbling soccer balls simultaneously, the world's largest-ever handprint painting -- created largely by "special needs children" -- and the largest number of people flying kites simultaneously.
In addition to the benefits provided to the children, 9,000 young people are given the opportunity for work as activity leaders. With youth unemployment at 75 per cent in Gaza, it is indeed rare that educated and talented young people can gain professional experience.