World renowned actress Mia Farrow and award winning Egyptian actor Mahmoud Kabil, both UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors, concluded a two-day visit to Gaza today to witness first-hand the hardships that children continue to face.
"The children appear traumatized,” Farrow said. “The teachers say that when they hear a loud noise they look to the sky and cry out and weep. They don’t know what the future holds. The many deprivations and fear. They deserve better."
In an unprecedented move, Farrow entered through the Erez crossing point in the North while Kabil crossed through the southern entry point of Rafah to meet up in Gaza, which has been under virtual blockade for 28 months.
Gaza is 45 km long and 12 km at its widest point. It is home to 1.5 million people, more than half of whom are children.
Their visit comes nine months after the hostilities that killed over 1,400 people, including at least 350 children, and injured over 5,000 people, amongst them 1,600 children.
Before the two Ambassadors joined up in Rafah, Farrow visited a school in northern Gaza and a hospital in Gaza City where she spoke with children, teachers and doctors to see how the blockade is undermining basic services, such as education, health care and sanitation. The UNICEF Ambassadors also heard testimonies from children who are now forced to work in tunnels in order to support their struggling families. The tunnels are used to smuggle in goods that are otherwise unavailable in Gaza. Unemployment rates are above 40 per cent and 8 out of 10 families in Gaza rely on some form of food assistance.
Farrow’s visit to Gaza is part of a week-long trip she is making to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, where she is meeting with officials, civil society organizations and children affected by conflict. Farrow will also be visiting Sderot, in Southern Israel, which has been thetarget of rocket attacks from Gaza. This is her first visit to the region as a UNICEF Goodwilll Ambassador. For Kabil, this is the second leg of a journey to the occupied Palestinian territory. He was in the West Bank during the month of Ramadan to show support for Palestinian children and families during the holy month. “I am happy to finally be able to visit the children of Gaza and express my solidarity with their families for the suffering they are enduring on a daily basis,” Kabil said. “The blockade and the recent fighting have left an indelible impact on children. Palestinian children have the same rights as all children everywhere and these rights need to be upheld.”
Nearly nine months after the end of the hostilities, around 20,000 residents are still displaced; and homes, vital infrastructure and the 280 schools damaged by the fighting still cannot be rehabilitated or repaired due to the ongoing blockade. Children remain at risk of death or injury from unexploded ordnance, and there are on-going security risks. Sixty per cent of the population of Gaza does not have daily access to water.