GAZA CITY (Dispatches) – Twelve-year-old Ahmed tries to convince passers-by across the streets of Gaza City to buy the masks he sells as a way of making ends meet. His boss expects him back before sunset.
Ahmed is just one of the hundreds of Palestinian children engaged in different forms of labor in the occupied territories due to extreme poverty caused by the Zionist regime’s occupation.
April 5 marks the Palestinian Children’s Day, which was approved by late President Yasser Arafat in 1995.
As Palestine marks this day, the conditions of the Palestinian children continue to worsen amid the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
To stem the spread of the virus, schools across the world switched to online education. For 8-year-old Rami Al-Khatib, this option was not accessible despite Palestinian authorities asking schools to resort to e-learning.
His poor family was not able to provide the little boy with the necessary materials for online education.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Basim Abu Jeri, a researcher at the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, said 34.83% of students in Palestine were not able to join the virtual classes because "families do not have smart devices or access to the Internet”.
Researcher Hussein Hammad, who also works with the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, blames the multiple challenges Palestinian children face in various sectors for reducing their chances of obtaining their basic rights.
He singled out the Zionist regime’s occupation for undermining the chances of Palestinian children to access their rights, especially with regard to "mobility, medical treatment, and life”.
"Israel continues to violate the rights of children, whether in Gaza or the West Bank, through arrests, physical or psychological harm, or restricting their movement,” Hammad said, explaining that sick children in Gaza are blocked from seeking better treatment in hospitals in the West Bank.
"Denying patients’ referral requests sometimes causes death”, Hammad added.
In a report on Sunday, the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS) said the Zionist regime’s authorities have arrested 230 Palestinian children since the beginning of this year, with two of them in the so-called administrative detentions and under harsh conditions.
The Palestinian branch of Defense for Children International (DCI) said in a statement that 85% of the children arrested last year were "subjected to physical violence”, while 27 children placed under solitary confinement.
The rights group also said nine children were killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2020.
Hammad described year 2020 as "bad” for Palestinian children due to the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, acute poverty, and abuse by regime authorities.
According to Hammad, overcrowded schools increased the chances of virus infection among children.
He says that the pandemic has exacerbated poverty in the Palestinian territories, pushing many children to resort to labor and begging.