GAZA CITY?The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Thursday launched a campaign to distribute some 200,000 laptops to schoolchildren in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, a spokesman said.
The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) plans to distribute half a million devices to refugees across the Middle East by the end of 2012, spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said.
"The campaign is beginning today in refugee schools in (the southern Gaza town of) Rafah, with the distribution of 2,200 laptops as part of a plan to distribute 200,000 laptops to our students in the Gaza Strip," he said.
The plan calls for linking pupils and teachers via wireless internet "so that the students can continue their studies during crises," Abu Hasna added.
The program has received funding from US-based One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, he said.
Israel and Egypt have sealed Gaza off to all but basic goods since the Islamist Hamas movement seized power in June 2007, but Israel has allowed UNRWA to bring in humanitarian aid and some construction materials.
Some 80 percent of Gaza's 1.5 million residents rely on foreign aid.
UNRWA provides humanitarian assistance as well as health and education services to more than 4.7 million registered Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The refugees are the descendants of the 750,000 Palestinians displaced from what is now Israel during the 1948 war that attended the creation of the Jewish state.
More than one million refugees live in Gaza, where they make up two-thirds of the population.