Fri 24 May 2024 8:29 pm - Jerusalem Time

Defense for Children International: Difficult psychological effects suffered by the children of Gaza due to war

The devastating Israeli aggression launched by the Israeli occupation army on the Gaza Strip since last October 7, in addition to killing and destruction, has left psychological effects that cannot be erased without treatment or follow-up, and its most prominent victims are children.

Defense for Children International in Palestine documented children from the Gaza Strip who began to suffer from severe psychological problems as a result of the aggression, including the case of the 9-year-old girl Siwar, who was living with her family consisting of her parents, Siwar (the firstborn), and her brother, in a residential apartment in the neighborhood of Olives in Gaza City.

The Siwar family's home was bombed, and her father and younger brother, Youssef, were martyred. She and her mother were injured by shrapnel and moderate burns. She remained lying alone on the ground in the hospital yard among the bodies of the martyrs for several hours, bleeding and in pain and unable to speak, and no one from her family or relatives was with her.

Since childhood, Siwar’s personality was characterized by fun, according to her mother, until she experienced the horror of aggression, death, fear, loss, and pain all at once, after her house was destroyed, and she remained for several days in the hospital, knowing nothing about her family, only to be confronted with the martyrdom of her brother Youssef and her father (she is his pamper). Then her mother was unable to care for her for reasons related to her grief for the father and son and her need for treatment due to the injury.

The mother says that Swar suffers from nightmares and involuntary urination, and is afraid of going to the bathroom or sleeping alone. She has become shy and introverted, and does not trust herself.

The mother adds about herself that she has lost sense of anything and is unable even to cry, which requires helping mothers and fathers also to relieve themselves psychologically so that they can support and support their children.

As for Siwar, she says: “I was not afraid of anything, but when the aggression began and they bombed our house and my father and my brother Youssef were martyred, I became afraid to go into the bathroom alone, because they bombed our house while I was in the bathroom, and I was screaming and no one could hear me.”

Regarding her presence in the hospital courtyard among the remains and bodies of martyrs, she said: “I was thinking of myself as a martyr. I felt like I was breathing. I started calling out, but no one heard me. I was in pain, and there was fire in my face, hands, and stomach.”

Today, Siwar suffers from involuntary urination, night nightmares, shyness and self-absorption, separation anxiety, psychosomatic symptoms (stomach pain), distracted attention and concentration, and severe emotions.

As for the child, Shadi (14 years old), he lived with his family consisting of five members: father, mother, Shadi (the youngest), and his brother and sister, in their home in Jabalia camp, north of Gaza. He now resides in a shelter center in Gaza City, under the care of his uncle.

The child Shadi, his father, and his older brother were arrested by the Israeli forces during their displacement in Al-Shifa Hospital. During their arrest, the occupation soldiers beat them, forced them to completely remove their clothes, and forced his mother and sister to forcibly move towards the southern Gaza Strip.

The Israeli soldiers released the child Shadi after several hours, while they kept his father and brother in detention, and he did not know anything about their fate.

Since childhood, Shadi’s personality was characterized by fun, playing, and sharing with friends, according to what his uncle reported, until the aggression began, and he experienced death and transported the bodies of friends and neighbors after their homes were destroyed.

The uncle says that Shadi wakes up suddenly and frighteningly every night and cannot go back to sleep again. He has become aggressive, offensive, and depressed most of the time. His concentration is very weak and he does not pay attention to anything. He has also become stubborn, chaotic, and unpopular, and his relationship with everyone is negative. We try to raise his morale. We sit together around Fire, we eat and drink tea.

Regarding the arrest experience, the child Shadi said: “They were beating my father and my brother and insulting my mother. Then they asked me to spit on my father’s face while he was tied up. When I refused, they beat me and tied my hands with a rope in a tank for a long time. I was running behind the tank whenever it came forward, and the soldiers were laughing and shooting bullets between my feet.” ".

Shadi suffers from nightmares, irritability, frustration, sadness, depression, anxiety, negative obsessions, aggressive behavior, stubbornness, and distraction and concentration.

As for the child Khaled (7 years old) from the Shujaiya neighborhood in Gaza City, he lived with his family consisting of four members (father, mother, Khaled, and sister). He was injured in the foot, and his friend Muhammad was martyred by shrapnel from a missile fired by a warplane at a building adjacent to his family’s home when they were playing near At home, Khaled has recovered from his injury, but he is still suffering from the consequences of losing his friend.

His mother says that Khaled sits alone all the time and refuses to eat, and his weight has clearly decreased. She adds that she is trying to encourage him to talk, express his feelings, and recall his beautiful memories with his friend Muhammad, despite the exhaustion and fatigue she feels due to displacement and the lack of the simplest necessities of life.

Khaled says: “I was standing with Muhammad Siddiqui at the door of our house. A missile was fired at the house next to us. I jumped into the air from its force and hit the wall. I saw Muhammad Siddiqui on the ground with blood covering his head. My mother was screaming and my father carried me to the hospital. It was crowded with martyrs and blood on the walls.” And the earth was very afraid.”

Khaled suffers from lack of sleep, loss of appetite, low weight, isolation and introversion, silent crying, a depressed mood, failure to participate in play or any activity with other children, and psychosomatic symptoms (stomach pain, subconscious gestural movements in the eyes, and facial redness).

Mental health supervisor at the Ministry of Social Development in the Gaza Strip, Muhammad Harara, said that Israel violated all children’s rights during this ongoing aggression. However, it is not possible to measure the psychological effects of this aggression on the personality of Palestinian children in the long term, because psychological disorders may appear immediately after the traumatic event. Or during a varying period of time, ranging from weeks to years after the end of the event, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, while the near-term psychological and behavioral effects can be understood and analyzed with the aim of anticipating the future personality.

He continued: Today we see shocking and enormous effects that have affected many members of Palestinian society, especially children, including: anxiety disorder, tension, aggression, psychosomatic disorders, inability to concentrate, avoidance, and many fear disorders.

He explained, “What is truly worrying is that the lack of rapid and effective psychological intervention may lead to what is called a disturbed personality, and we have already begun to notice manifestations and indicators of violence, destruction, loss, and starvation in children’s psychological responses, such as intolerance for others, selfishness, and reduction of thought in daily life and preservation.” Survival, extreme feelings and thoughts, and lack of family and social adjustment.

Harara added: “Unfortunately, there are currently no protection and psychological support services for children in Gaza, and therefore we must immediately begin strengthening a national protection system capable of applying preventive protection measures, at all levels, such as providing psychological first aid in places of displacement and homelessness, and empowering the workforce in The field of mental health and social care, through professional systems in case management and appropriate treatment methods for the child.”

Defense for Children International indicated several steps that would address post-traumatic stress disorder in children in the Gaza Strip, such as designing educational programs aimed at enhancing their psychological resilience and enabling them to deal with trauma, and early intervention by establishing programs to provide psychological first aid to affected children. Organizing training courses for teachers and social workers to teach them how to deal with children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

It stressed the need to provide support to families by holding educational sessions for parents to help them understand the needs and challenges of their children and how to support them, establishing primary psychological care centers near the affected areas to provide the necessary support for children and their families, and enhancing community awareness by distributing awareness materials about children’s mental health. And how to deal with it effectively.


Share your opinion

Defense for Children International: Difficult psychological effects suffered by the children of Gaza due to war