Screaming, air strikes, constant fear and nightmares, this is how Palestinian children live in Gaza. The constant violence turns their vision of the world into a place of war and prepare for the possibility of losing their lives, their homes and their family at any moment.
Recently, the last Israeli offensive that lasted 11 days, caused the death of 260 people, including nearly 70 children and 40 women. 2,200 people were injured, in addition to the destruction of buildings, homes, several health centers and cars.
The most dangerous thing that the escalation of violence left in the minds of the minors is that there is no really safe place in Gaza. The destruction of buildings occupied by people, including children, left deep psychological wounds, to varying degrees, in the Gaza Strip.
“I had a sister who had five children and I was her only brother. He came to my house in the evening to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with me and my children. I went out to buy bread and when I got home I was surprised by the news that a nearby place had been attacked. I saw that my house had been destroyed with my children, my wife, my sister and their children inside, ”says Alaa Abu Hatab, a 34-year-old Palestinian refugee living in the Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza.
“It gave me a nervous breakdown, I fainted and they took me to the hospital, where I began to receive my dead children ”, Alaa comments with great sadness.
Israeli warplanes attacked his home with five missiles, without any warning, or notice to evacuate. They were bombarded directly and turned the house into rubble.
“My daughter María, 5 years old, surprised me. I found it lying in the back of the house, it had flown there because of the intensity of the bombardment. He was calling his mother and crying. It was a miracle to see that she was alive, “he added.
In Gaza there are no hiding places, no places safe enough to protect against Israeli incursions. This makes boys and girls always feel scaredeven with the slightest noise.
Minors are incapable of living the life that would correspond to someone their age, a childhood life, of enjoyment and games in the parks. Any place is susceptible to attack, so the idea of how to save themselves in case a missile falls on them always haunts their thoughts. Asad Ashour, education coordinator for the Norwegian Council for Refugees in Gaza, says this trend stresses their brains and leaves most of them in constant fear of doing anything.
Ashour confirms that the escalation of violence exacerbated their fears, affected them very negatively and exposed them to highly complex trauma. “It is difficult to convince Palestinian children that they have some kind of future with the situation they experience every day.”
Today, a large part of young Gazans suffer from lack of concentration, nightmares and constant personality changes, as well as rapid irritability and a constant fear of death, either for themselves or for their relatives.
Common psychological effects in minors are generalized depression and anxiety, phobia of darkness and distraction, as they suffer from a high inability to concentrate in school. In addition, they develop an attitude of violence with their peers and indifference towards what surrounds them, as well as a rejection of the authority of parents and the school. At night, childhood urinary incontinence is accompanied by sleep disturbances, nightmares, waking up sad, inability to stop thinking about traumatic experiences and painful events, and feeling that everything around them is unsafe and that they live in a bitter and present present. ambiguous future. To this are added the psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain, and stomach pain.
Gazans minors live in a war zone and, according to the latest UNICEF data, one in three needs psychological and social support. A figure that sadly, and after the last bombings, is expected to increase.
The psychological care capacity of Gaza hospitals is much lower than it should be for the number of cases that need follow-up.
Healing a psychological injury resulting from perpetual trauma at such an early age is a fundamental task that will only be achieved by recognizing the importance of mental health and allocating the necessary resources. No taboos, no “buts”, because future generations in Gaza depend on it.