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Gaza: Where Children’s Trauma is Quite Unique

Trauma is an Understatement

The above conditions would, in a normal world, cause trauma and anxiety, besides other physical health problems. Yet, to add insult to injury, those “prisoners” — who are 40% children below the age of 14 — have been heavily bombarded on 4 different occasions since 2008. 

To put it in simple terms: For 1 million children “imprisoned” under severe circumstances, and being bombarded by air over the span of 13 years, the psychological impact is beyond imagination.

“The greatest damage is trauma,” not the physical one, as the UNRWA Director in Gaza put it. Those children went through inhumane circumstances, four separate military assaults, and COVID. These are circumstances that would wreak havoc on adults.

Studies have tried to portray a close image of the psychological impact on the children in Gaza.

Suicide attempts, mood disorders, PTSD, sleeping difficulty, bedwetting, and other stress-related conditions are among the observations.

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Trauma in Numbers

According to a 2019 study, the majority (70%) of children in Gaza aged between 9 and 14 have witnessed war violence compared to at least one of their family members, and close to half (44%) have at least one death in their family as a result of the invasion.

Another study concluded that 88.4% of Gaza’s children and adolescents had experienced personal trauma. Another said that 41% of children suffered PTSD, with cognitive and emotional symptoms.

Between the ages of 15 and 19, 68.9% of the study participants had PTSD, while 94.9% had severe anxiety levels, a different study concluded.

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Those “invisible wounds of war” leave a long-term impact on children, especially if gone untreated. Under normal circumstances, a trauma-stricken patient is expected to be pulled out of the environment that caused it and provided with one-to-one treatment that may take weeks to show improvement. This is not the case in Gaza.

Children in Gaza suffering from trauma are usually surrounded by parents who are experiencing anxiety or even trauma as well. Such a stress-free environment can not be present in an “open-air prison” where the basic human needs are not satisfied.

Nevertheless, there is always hope. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) run clinics in Gaza to treat trauma victims; they attend to over 1,000 children a year. By the way, MSF’s clinic was bombed by Israeli missiles during the latest escalations.

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