A psychological ghost created by war

By Caritas Jerusalem staff
Al-Salatin, North of Gaza District

The civilian population of Gaza has suffered immeasurably as a result of the recent Israeli attacks, yet the psychological affects of war have been most severe on Palestinian children.

“I have nightmares every night. Any noise I hear wakes me up,” says 9-year-old Fadya Al-Sultan. “I saw my father bleeding but I was too scared to come near him. I am still afraid now.”

Fadya is being treated at a Caritas mobile clinic. She is just one of of the thousands of Palestinian children who are dealing with the aftermath of the violence.

“Over time the effects of war fade, but never completely. They will be stored mentally, without any symptoms, but from time to time the symptoms will continue to surface,” says Yasser Mansour, a psychologist at the Islamic University of Gaza.

One of the nights of the attacks, Fadya was preparing herself to go with her family to her uncle’s house, when suddenly a rocket hit her home injuring her and members of her family.

“I was injured along with my father, mother and my little 3-year-old cousin,” says Fadya. Her father was heavily injured in both legs, her cousin was hit in the stomach and Fadya and her mother suffered minor injuries.

Since the incident that occurred in January, Raneen Awad, a Caritas Jerusalem mobile clinic nurse, has been working with Al-Sultan Family. As part of the treatment Raneen has been dressing the family’s wounds.

“I used to perform dressing everyday for them. The father’s situation was severe. He could have lost one of his legs if he did not arrive at Kamal Edwan Hospital on time.”

Fortunately the father still has both of his legs. Raneen’s daily dressings are now done once a week since the family’s health has improved.

“In my six years working with the Caritas mobile clinic I have not seen anything so traumatic and destructive as these last attacks. Children are always stressed out, nervous and afraid,” said Raneen. “Many children wet their beds and have behavioural and emotional problems.”

A total of around 412 Palestinian children were killed between 27 December 2008 and 18th January 2009. UNICEF director, Ann Venemen, says more than 1,500 other children children have been wounded, casualties she calls “tragic” and “unacceptable.”

Fadya now feels much better, although there are still some pieces of shrapnel in her body. Many doctors have helped Fadya and her family recover from the injuries and that is why Fadya would like one day to do the same.

“When I grow up, I want to become like Raneen and help people the same way I was helped,” Fadya says.

But as Gaza’s children grow up, many of them who have lost a father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, friend or neighbour will have to battle physical and mental scars for years to come.

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Filed under Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in the Palestine, Jerusalem, Middle East & North Africa, Peacebuilding

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