Gaza’s children fly high at UN-backed Summer Games

30 June 2011

More than 3,000 students in Gaza today smashed the first of what they hope to be four world records this northern summer, by “flying” dozens of parachutes, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said today.

Margot Ellis, UNRWA’s Deputy Commissioner General said at least 3,500 Gazan children repeatedly let 176 parachutes fill with air and kept them aloft over Khan Younis Stadium in an event UNRWA said was aimed at putting “the spotlight on the world’s only community of hundreds of thousands of fenced-in and locked up children.”

“If kids in Gaza are given half the chance, free from the constraints of this counter-productive blockade, they would show their full potential and be number one in the world,” said UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness.

For five years the UNRWA has staged the Summer Games – which include sports, arts and other activities – to provide a recreational outlet for an estimated 250,000 children in the Gaza Strip. This year’s games coincide with the fifth year of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

“The message is simple: give Gaza kids their freedom to be children,” Mr. Gunness said. “We need to end this blockade, which has become a blockade against childhood itself.”

The children will also attempt world records in football dribbling and hand-print painting, and the Summer Games will culminate at the end of July in an attempt by up to 10,000 children to smash their own record set last year for kite flying.

“These world records will produce iconic images which show another side of what is happening in Gaza,” said Mr. Gunness. “More than half of the Gaza Strip is under 18, children too young to have expressed a political opinion at the ballot box. Why should they pay such a high price and lose their childhood? Each one is an ambassador for the next generation, an example to all of what is possible under the most appalling circumstances.”

The previous Guinness Book of World Records award for the largest number of people flying parachutes from the ground was held by 1,547 students in the United Kingdom.

 

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