Of trauma faced by Gaza children

Published May 24, 2021
Children hold candles at the site of a house that was destroyed by Israeli air strikes, in Gaza May 23. — Reuters
Children hold candles at the site of a house that was destroyed by Israeli air strikes, in Gaza May 23. — Reuters

GAZA CITY: When an Israeli air strike targeted a security office near her home in Gaza this month, 10-year-old Zeina Dabous frantically scribbled a note and slipped it under her mother’s pillow.

“Mummy, my love, I am very, very scared. If we all die, put us in the same grave all together so I can stay in your arms,” she wrote.

“I want to wear my Eid clothes,” she added, of the outfit she never got to wear for the Muslim celebration after Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave began on May 10.

Although a ceasefire has since Friday halted the air raids, experts warn that children in the besieged coastal strip will likely carry the mental scars for years to come.

Psychologists say many are showing signs of depression, anxiety, behavioural disorders or irritability, and many are wetting their beds.

At home in Gaza city just before the bombing stopped, Zeina said she was constantly petrified and barely sleeping. “They’re always bombing,” she said.

Zeina is one of around a million children living in Gaza, according to the UN’s children agency Unicef. Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and have wounded another 1,900 people, the Gaza health ministry says. Israeli air strikes also pounded the densely populated enclave in 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014.

When the last war raged, Zeina was no older than four.

“A whole generation of children has been ravaged by repeated conflicts,” said Zeina’s grandfather, Saeed Dabous.

The charity Save the Children on Friday warned that children in Gaza would suffer for years to come. They “are suffering from fear and anxiety, a lack of sleep, and are displaying worrying signs of distress, such as constant shaking and bedwetting,” it said.

In their grandfather’s home, Maysa Abu al-Awf, 22, held her two-year-old brother Ahmad on her lap and tried to comfort him after they lost two sisters and dozens of relatives in a devastating air strike.

“I’m scared, I’m scared,” Ahmad constantly repeated, a scab on his hand and stitches on his bare foot.

Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2021

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