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Monday, December 17, 2007

Child abuse in Palestinian Arab "refugee" camps

From Media Line:
Azzmi, eight, limps along the corridors of al Hussein camp clinic, in the heart of Amman, to have an X-ray.
The little Palestinian refugee tells the doctors he fell from the roof of his house.
"What about the bruise on your back? asks a nurse, who recognizes the frail-looking child.
"When I fell on the ground, a piece of metal hurt my back," Azzmi replies.
This is the fifth time this year that this boy has visited the infirmary seeking medical attention, says the nurse, who is speaking to the press on condition of anonymity.
The clinic is run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Patients coming to this small clinic are either residents of the squalid al Hussein camp or crowded neighborhoods in the dreary eastern part of Amman.
The refugees, whose areas lack basic services and whose infrastructure is worn out, offer an incongruous backdrop to the posh parts of Amman, just on the other side of the road.
"I know he was not telling the truth because his wounds carry the hallmarks of physical abuse. But informing the police or referring the boy to social care cervices would aggravate the problem," says the nurse, who knows there is little he can do to help Azzmi.
"The boy would not tell us about the true source of his injuries. Taking him to the police would only make things worse for him and his family," he says.
Health-care staff working in government-run hospitals and UNRWA clinics receive extensive training from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on how to identify injuries related to abuse.
Ideally, abused children are referred to the nearest hospital for further investigation. In severe cases, police are notified and children are sent to special care centers set up by the government or NGOs.
Doctors and other clinic staff prefer to handle abuse cases discreetly. Parents are summoned to health centers to guide them on how to avoid violence when dealing with children.
"Parents tend to be receptive when we talk directly to them. Involving the government or the police could backfire," says a doctor from Baqaa camp health center, who also refused to be named.

Childcare experts admit that in a tribal country like Jordan it is hard to implement child protection programs according to the book.
There are no official records on the magnitude of the problem of child abuse at refugee camps, but experts believe the rate of mistreatment at the impoverished compounds is higher than anywhere else in the kingdom.
"Children at refugee camps suffer the most due to the deteriorating living conditions. These places are very crowded with a high percentage of unemployment, "admits Hemsi.
Leaders at refugee camps believe the cure for child abuse in refugee camps is simple – improve living conditions and provide jobs for the unemployed.
"We need to have better services. Unemployment is high and poverty is increasing, therefore it becomes only natural that people are frustrated and tend to resort to violence to solve their problems," says Walid Abu Salem, a tribal leader in Baqaa refugee camp.
And why are the living conditions so rotten in the camps?

Because the Arab leaders want to keep the Palestinian Arabs in miserable conditions, because otherwise their weapons of "Palestinian unity" and unhappy "refugees" disappear!

Child abuse is just one more price Arabs are more than willing to pay in order to be able to score political points against Israel.