12:00 AM, August 04, 2014 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:53 AM, March 08, 2015

Children struggle to best war trauma

Children struggle to best war trauma

Afp, Jabaliya

Ask any child in Gaza to do a drawing and the resulting picture is likely to be a house being bombed by a fighter plane.
In the strife-torn Palestinian enclave, thousands of children are suffering from the trauma of war but resources to help them are scarce.
At a school in the northern town of Jabaliya which has been converted into a refuge, specialist teachers hand out paper and coloured crayons to a motley band of shaken up children, asking them to draw whatever is in their head.
Jamal Diab, a nine-year old with red flecks in his brown hair, draws his dead grandfather. Under the drawing, he writes in Arabic: "I am sad because of the martyrs."
Tiny seven-year old Bara Marouf shows a drawing of his grandfather without any legs. He was seriously wounded in an air strike.
In the classroom, the same sketch comes up repeatedly: an aircraft filling the sky and bombarding a house, subtitled with the caption "I want to go home".
"Me, I'm afraid of missiles and planes. Half our house was destroyed. We left it to come here," explains Itimad Subh, an 11-year-old girl with sparkling eyes.
According to Unicef, about 300 children have been killed since the start on July 8 of Israel's offensive against Hamas militants firing rockets into the Jewish state.
Those who are still alive try not to internalise too much the violence they have experienced, seen and heard.
"The children have all lived extreme experiences," says Dr Iyad Zaqut, a psychiatrist who manages the United Nations community mental health programmes in the Gaza Strip.
"To prevent children from processing and thinking about all these issues, we try to distract them, to help them live some joy, to have a little fun inside the shelter,” Zaqut said.
In the Gaza Strip, 460,000 people -- more than a quarter of the population -- have been displaced by the fighting and have gone to stay with relatives or found refuge at UN shelters.
Fewer than 100 specialist teachers are "treating" more than 100,000 children.
Only in exceptional cases do the children have access to one-on-one meetings with psychologists and psychiatrists. And even fewer get a follow up.
UNICEF estimates that 326,000 minors in Gaza are in need of psychological help.
The children and adolescents sheltering in the UN centres can at least attend the group classes but hundreds of thousands of others affected by the war are left to wander unhelped through devastated neighbourhoods.


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