Strikes on Gaza, Hala Shehada’s testimony

Palestinian children protest against attacks on Gaza Palestinian children protest against attacks on Gaza Photo by rrodrickbeiler on iStock

01 June 2021

Hala Shehada relives trauma from 2014 following the latest strikes on Gaza.

On May 30 Hala Shehada, a 28-year-old woman living in Beit Hanoun, related to Al Jazeera her experience following the recent strikes on Gaza. The woman told that the events caused her to relive the trauma suffered in the course of the 2014 conflict in the area which caused the death of 2,200 people, including 500 minors, and led to the death of her husband; this time, however, she also had to take care of her daughter Toleen, who was born five months after the death of her father. Indeed, the hardest task for Shehada was to attempt to calm her child, who was terrified by the attacks. 

Young people were among the main victims of the recent Israeli strikes on the disputed coastal enclave: military operations resulted in the deaths of 253 Palestinians, 66 of whom were children, and left more than 1,900 civilians injured, according to Al Jazeera. Furthermore, many rockets launched by Hamas also fell within the borders of Gaza, leading to further casualties and destruction of civilian property. As a result, many survivors were forced to seek shelter in UN-run schools. Children in particular have an urgent need for psychological assistance but unfortunately, as explained by Shehada, most people have to face their trauma independently due to the lack of adequate mental health services in the area. Despite this, over the years, thousands of children are reported to have been traumatized by things such as  air raid sirens, explosions and evacuations to bomb shelters: the psychological consequences resulting from this difficult reality are alarming. A study carried out by THE United Nation Children's Fund  (UNICEF) in Gaza found that 82% of children live in fear of imminent death; 91% have sleep problems; 94% sleep with their parents; 85% reported loss of appetite; 82% have anger problems; 38% suffer from guilt, and 47% are onychophagous (compulsive and harmful nail biting).

Many families in Gaza have called upon the Palestine Trauma Centre UK to get mental health support for their children. Ghada Redwan, a psychotherapist working with the Center, explained that her and her colleagues provide children and parents with the tools they need to deal with the effects of the traumatic experiences they went through; as an example, she teaches techniques used by experts to treat the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. If on the one hand the need to support people psychologically is nothing new, on the other, the amount of people who require this kind of help has risen to levels never before seen. In response, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has announced that it is working with various governmental and international organizations to increase the availability of psychological support programs within the Gazan community .

 

Sources:

‘Wake up screaming’: Gaza’s children traumatised by Israeli war | Gaza News | Al Jazeera

‘Bearing the brunt’: the suffering of children in the Gaza-Israel conflict – photo essay | Gaza | The Guardian

 

Author: Sara Taherzadeh; Editor: Maxime Grenier

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