Gaza war traumatized a generation

June 28, 2009

Six months after the start of the last conflict, the children of Gaza are still traumatized by the experience, raising concerns about the long-term psychological impact on an entire generation.

Islamic Relief aid workers are deeply concerned at the increase in trauma cases they are witnessing since the conflict that began on December 27, 2008. The violence and destruction of everything that was normal and familiar has left children vulnerable to anxiety, depression, behavioral problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a survey conducted by Islamic Relief just before the war, it was found that more than half of all children were suffering from some form of behavioral or emotional problems due to trauma. This number increased after the last round of fighting at the start of this year.
“We are very worried about the mental wellbeing of the children of Gaza,” said Anwar Wadi, a psychologist working with Islamic Relief in Gaza. “This is the future generation of Gaza and more than half of them are traumatized. The long-term impact of this is deeply worrying.”
Many of the children suffering from trauma have experienced the death of a family member or friends, raids on their homes, bombing and the destruction of their homes and schools. As well as problems such as sleeplessness, loss of appetite and aggression, many are also having problems concentrating at school especially during their final exams.
Anwar Wadi, said, “The conflict has also torn apart the fabric of society as families have lost fathers, sons, mothers and daughters. This has put added pressure on those left behind.”
“Because of rising poverty many parents are unable to provide for their children's basic needs leaving them feeling powerless, worthless and frustrated. Unfortunately children often bear the brunt of these emotions which only heightens the mental distress they are feeling.”
As more than half the population of Gaza are under 18 there is a desperate need to address the issue of traumatized children. Islamic Relief has been providing emergency psychosocial support for thousands of schoolchildren since the conflict and has also established a new purpose built psychosocial support centre in Gaza with support from CAFOD. This centre provides one-to-one counseling and group psychosocial sessions to 200 traumatized children and their parents.
Mohamed Alsousi , Head of Mission of Islamic Relief Palestine said, “We have seen the number of children who require the services of our psychosocial team increase dramatically since the start of the last conflict. Children as young as three have seen bombs destroy their homes and neighborhoods, and their friends and family killed and maimed.
“Our work is helping traumatized children with a safe space to express themselves and overcome their trauma but there is only so much we can do given the enormity of the problem.”
(Source: Islamic Relief – UK)-