The plight of children in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) has been at the centre of Ireland’s response to the recent hostilities. As Minister Coveney stated at the UN Security Council on 16 May, children must never be made prisoners of history.
Ireland has a longstanding commitment to improving access to and the quality of education in the oPt. Education has been central to our international development programme in the oPt for many years and, along with a number of other donors, we work with the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Education (PA) to build the capacity of Palestinian educational institutions. This includes support for curriculum development and educational reform. Ireland invests €3 million in this area annually.
Ireland has also contributed €6.85 million since 2019 to Education Cannot Wait (ECW), a global fund which supports the education needs of children and youth caught up in emergencies and protracted crises. ECW supports education in the oPt through a three-year educational response programme which was developed with the PA Ministry of Education, UN Agencies and other stakeholders. ECW works through UNICEF to provide safe learning spaces, sanitation facilities, and training for teachers on child-centred teaching methods and special learning needs, as well as psychosocial support to children.
Ireland also supports the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is mandated to provide services – including education - to Palestine refugees across a number of fields of operation, including the oPt. 526,000 refugee children are educated in 711 UNRWA-run schools. In March of this year, Minister Coveney signed a three-year agreement with UNRWA under which we committed to provide the agency with €6 million per year for three years to support their important work.
In addition, each year Ireland provides Fellowships for young, high-potential Palestinians to study for a Master’s Degree at an Irish Higher Education Institution. At present 25 of these Fellowships are awarded each year across a range of disciplines.
In May 2021, Minister Coveney announced that Ireland would provide €1.5 million in emergency humanitarian support for the oPt following the recent hostilities. This includes €500,000 for UNICEF, which will be used for child protection, and the provision of medical and sanitation services to thousands of children in acute need. UNICEF will also provide emergency psycho-social services to 5000 children suffering trauma as a result of the hostilities. This will bring Ireland’s total funding to UNICEF for its global work programme to €7.7 million in 2021.
The other €1 million is additional support to UNRWA to assist it in providing emergency food, water and sanitation supplies, as well as health and psychosocial services for people affected by the hostilities. It brings Ireland’s total funding to UNRWA in 2021 to €7 million.
I can assure the Deputy that the plight of children is and will remain at the centre of our response to this ongoing emergency.