The recent surge in violence in the West Bank has dramatically affected the lives of Palestinians, including Palestine refugee children. Between October 2015 and July 2016, 84 Palestinian children, including 12 Palestine refugee children, were killed – 6 out of the 12 fatalities occurred in West Bank refugee camps. Furthermore, as of 10 August, 1,146 Palestinians have been displaced as a result of demolitions, including at least 542 children; 406 of the displaced were Palestine refugees, including at least 187 children. Another 3,294 Palestinians, including 1,371 children (369 of them refugees), have been indirectly affected by displacement.
These circumstances have also greatly affected Palestine refugee children’s schooling – as a result of Israeli military activity in the surrounding areas, UNRWA students in the West Bank lost 83 days of school between 1 October 2015 and 9 March 2016. Other factors, such as settler violence and access restrictions, continue to pose challenges to UNRWA students and schools.
Within this context, the psychosocial well-being and mental health of Palestine refugee children in the West Bank remains one of the top priorities for UNRWA. The Agency’s education, relief and social services, health, protection and Community Mental Health (CMH) programmes work together to mitigate the impact of the violence by creating a safe learning environment and offering psychosocial support. School counsellors work with the UNRWA programmes on interventions to address the sense of hopelessness pervading the lives of many refugee children, including collective and individual counselling, fun stress-relieving activities, and, where necessary, internal or external referrals. UNRWA also continues to undertake advocacy efforts calling for action to prevent further escalation of violence and ensure the children’s access to their right to a quality education.