April 8 2002
Situation remains critical in Bethlehem und Rafah
08/04/2002 - According to reports received from co-worker Lina Kopty in Jordan on 6 April, the situation in and around the SOS Children's Village in Bethlehem continues to be critical. A temporary lifting of the curfew made it possible for co-workers to purchase provisions. The effects of the military offensive by Israeli troops can also be clearly felt in the SOS Children's Village in the Gaza Strip.
After a week under siege, the situation for the inhabitants in Bethlehem continues to be more than tense. Three tanks and a bulldozer are now situated by the sports field at the SOS Children's Village, which has not yet been subjected to a house search.
During the temporary lifting of the curfew last Friday, former SOS Children's Village children were able to get to the village with their families, where 150 people are now staying instead of the usual 80 inhabitants. Co-workers were also able to buy 300 kg of flour so as to be able to provide for everyone in the SOS Children's Village during the next phase of the curfew.
The SOS Children's Village is still a relatively safe place which, unlike the neighbourhood, does not have any problems with water supplies. In the meantime, all SOS youth have been contacted and are either being accommodated in the SOS Children's Village or in other houses in safety. It is not yet known whether the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School or the SOS Youth House for girls have been damaged. At the moment the priority is to obtain the most necessary goods and to ensure the security of the people in the SOS Children's Village.
The situation is also tense in the Gaza Strip, where an SOS Children's Village is located close to the town of Rafah. The Gaza Strip has been totally cut off - northern Gaza has been isolated from southern Gaza. Israeli troops are positioned in Rafah, Khan Younis and Erez; tanks can be seen everywhere in Rafah, according to a report from our co-worker in our office in Cairo. The atmosphere is one of fear. Local authority offices are only partially open.
The SOS Children's Village facilities in Rafah - the kindergarten and school - have remained open. Unlike in Bethlehem, areas in the south of the Gaza Strip have not yet experienced any food or water shortages. Children and mothers in the SOS Children's Village are staying on the ground floor of the family houses for security reasons, food supplies and medicines are being purchased. In contrast to the neighbourhood, the situation in SOS Children's Village Rafah is still relatively calm.
First contacts were made in Bethlehem in 1964. An SOS Children's Village association was founded two years later and permission given to build the first SOS Children's Village, which opened in Bethlehem in 1973. In 1997, the ten-year-old SOS Kindergarten was expanded and a new SOS Youth House was established. The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School also opened.
The SOS Children's Village in Rafah is still a very recent project. The village located in the south of the Gaza Strip was completed at the end of September 2001 and the children moved in immediately. Twelve family houses provide a home for up to 80 children. The SOS Hermann Gmeiner School opened in autumn 2001, and the SOS Kindergarten, which has been operational for a year and a half, takes care of 260 children.