Bethlehem, with a population of 29,000, is situated in West Bank, which is home to 3.2 million people. Around 36% of the population is under 15 years old.
The walls and fences that zigzag through the West Bank affect access to employment, education, water, and health care. With around a fifth of the population being unemployed, it is estimated that 36% of the population are living in poverty.
Since 1968, SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children, young people and families and advocating for their rights in Bethlehem.
The age of maturity in Palestine is fixed at 18 years. However, child marriage is still practiced with 15% girls under 18 and 1% under 15 being married.
However, there are many unreported, unregistered, and informal marriages. Some reports indicate more than 30% of girls are married before the age of 18. Further, 3 in 10 girls are married to a husband who is a first degree relative.
Early marriage violates a girl’s right to health, education, and opportunity. They miss out on developing the skills, knowledge, and confidence they need to become self-reliant adults.
Is it estimated that there are 600,000 food insecure people in the West Bank. As poverty is often the cause of poor nutrition and a lack of access to basic services, approximately 35% of children under the age of 5 are at risk of not meeting their full developmental potential.
Child malnutrition has multiple effects, from an inability to concentrate in school to poor cognitive function. It also causes poor growth and development, and can lead to a weakened immune system, resulting in illness.