Gaza Children: Resilience Amidst Strife Featured

By Dr. Ahmed Issa December 11, 2023 3974

 

Seeing the children generation in Gaza, collectively being punished, and wondering: How will the relationship of the ones who manage to stay alive with the outside society be when they become young adults and decision-makers? How will they address and perceive the world that abandoned them, adding to their suffering, alienation, and isolation? How will they treat their enemies who inflicted upon them and their families such horrors? What feelings will it unleash in them? Is it heroism, revenge, or indifference?

What’s happening to them is a loud cry, perhaps to awaken the world’s conscience and evoke a sense of shame for the silence on such unprecedented occupation crimes.

What is expected from innocent children who find their parents’ dead bodies under the rubble of their demolished homes and whose attempts to sleep only turn into a suffocating nightmare?! What is expected from those who were feeding from their mother's breasts just to find a bomb rendering on their heads, or the shreds that’s left of their brother’s hands falling on their heads?!  

What were they feeling as they witnessed the deaths of their families from hunger and thirst, and their neighbors from fires and smoke?! What echoes now in their young minds with the deafening thunder of bombs and the terrifying tremors of collapsing homes and schools when they were demolished?

The American “Forbes” magazine answers, saying: Children bear the brunt of the currently escalating conflict, adding that the psychological damage, represented by the constant fear for their lives, witnessing the catastrophic destruction of their homes and belongings, temporary or even permanent displacement, and suffering from food insecurity, has long-term consequences.

The article’s Jewish writer says: Many of these young people have been, and still are, exposed to indescribable terrorism and horror; as a result, a culture of war has emerged that can cause long-term distress, hinder psychological and moral growth, and, in turn, lay the foundation for generations of conflict in the future. Witnessing violence and injustice around them makes children susceptible to joining armed groups, perpetuating the vicious cycle (1).

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Haunted by Blood

The long-term repercussions of the relentless occupation’s terrorism, shock, and harm to the youth of Gaza are terrifying. Those who survive will grow up mourning, fearful, angry, isolated, feeling guilty, and seeking revenge. Or, at least, judging from past experiences, many of them are likely to do so. They will ask: Who killed their brothers, sisters, fathers, and friends? And why commit such atrocities against them?! asking, what did the world do to stop the massacres?

 Memories of blood and bitter tears will haunt them, and they will demand justice. Some, like many before them, may take matters into their own hands whenever they can (2).

The current war against the people of Gaza has wide-ranging ramifications for various aspects of life in the densely populated territory. It will have long-term effects on those who have experienced the bombardment and destruction, leaving psychological traumas that may last forever. Children are the most vulnerable group; in Gaza, any child aged 15 has experienced five periods of intensive and deadly bombardment in their life: in 2008, 2012, 2014, 2021, and now in 2023.

Studies conducted after previous years of attacks have shown that the majority of children in Gaza exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After the 2012 operation, “UNICEF” found that 82% of children were in constant fear of imminent death. Two years before the recent war, due to the intense escalation in May 2021, the war had a devastating impact on children and their families. The violence caused lives, tore families apart, destroyed schools and health facilities, leveled homes to the ground, and displaced entire families. Even before the escalation, one-third of Gaza's children were already in need of conflict-related trauma support (3).

As a result of the 2012 war, 91% of children reported sleep disturbances during the conflict; 94% said they sleep with their parents; 85% reported changes in appetite; 82% felt anger; 97% felt insecurity; 38% felt guilt; 47% bit their nails; and 76% reported itching or feeling sick (4).

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Gaza: Graveyard for Thousands of Children

Prior to this latest nightmare in 2023, the number of psychologically affected children in Gaza increased significantly. More than 800,000 children in Gaza—three-quarters of the total number of children in the Strip—have been identified as in need of mental health and psychosocial support.  

In addition to the thousands of casualties, the enormous number of those psychologically traumatized will become apparent when the war stops, and the world will bear the grave cost of the psychological trauma to children and their communities.

A report by “The Guardian” has revealed that children in Gaza are now experiencing severe traumatic symptoms due to witnessing the scenes of killing and destruction, reaching their peak when the “Israeli” army carried out 300 airstrikes in a single day. “The Guardian” has also reported that a Gaza-based psychologist mentioned that the psychological impact of war is beginning to manifest in children, especially “severe psychological traumas,” characterized by symptoms such as fear, nervousness, spasms, aggressive behavior, bedwetting, and never leaving their parents (6).

Now, almost every child in Gaza has been exposed to extremely painful events and traumas marked by widespread destruction, continuous attacks, displacement, and the absence of basic necessities such as food, water, medicine, and electricity. The Regional Director of “UNICEF” in the Middle East stated that killing and mutilating children, attacks on hospitals and schools, and the prevention of humanitarian aid access constitute serious violations of children's rights. She added that the situation in Gaza is “a growing stain on our collective conscience”, and the rate of deaths and injuries among children is shocking (7).

 

Have you seen the images and videos of Gaza's surviving children? Despite the heart-wrenching experiences they endure, behind the tears of these children lie strength, faith, resilience, and patience. The hidden effects of the blockade and destruction on their souls, and behavior is unimaginable.

Children will never forget what’s happening; all they think of is, O indifferent world, wait for us when we grow up.Top of Form

 

Sources

(1) Joshua Cohen, Israel-Hamas war takes a huge toll on children’s mental health, Forbes, 21 October 2023.

(2) Simon Tisdall, What will the children who survive the onslaught of Gaza think of those who let it happen? The Guardian 22 October 2023.

(3) UNICEF, Children Bear the Brunt of Violence in Gaza, 26 May 2021.

(4) WHO, Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, 10 May 2013.

(5) UNICEF, Gaza has become a graveyard for thousands of children, 31 October 2023.

(6) Harriet Sherwood, Children in Gaza ‘developing severe trauma’, The Guardian 22 October 2023.

(7) UNICEF, Child casualties in Gaza “a growing stain on our collective conscience,” 24 October 2023.

Last modified on Monday, 11 December 2023 10:20