Before the May 21st ceasefire, Israel relentlessly bombarded Gaza for 11 days, killing hundreds of civilians, many of which were children. From Israel throwing stun-grenades on Al-Aqsa Mosque to them bombing media towers in Gaza, the struggle of Palestinians is on-going. Half of their struggling population is children, who are developing amidst overwhelming terror.
Political violence in Palestine began in the 1948 war between the Israeli and Palestinian armies. As a result Palestinians were killed and their villages were destroyed. Half of them became refugees either in the West Bank, Gaza, or in other arab countries. In 1967, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) further occupied the West Bank and the Gaza strip. In 1987, the first Palestinian uprising (intifida) began and Palestinians in the occupied territories started a revolution against Israeli occupation. The next uprising started in 2000, where more sophisticated weapons were used by Israel. In December 2008, the IDF waged war against the Gaza strip, which was more severe than the first and second uprisings. This continued for 22 days and more than 1400 Palestinians were killed with mass destruction of houses and farms.
Experts on conflict and trauma say both Israeli and Palestinian children will have adversely impacted mental health in the long term. Children living in Gaza are more vulnerable because they are poorly protected from Israeli attacks, exposed to more casualties, and lack mental health care. Children living in Gaza and West Bank are exposed to violent traumatic events on a daily basis, and have been for as long as they remember. Every single child living in Palestine has been exposed to 3 or more severely traumatic events. As a result, 42% suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A 2020 study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry found that nearly 90% of Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip experienced personal trauma and more than 80% had witnessed trauma to others. Meanwhile, in Gaza, it is virtually impossible for children to access mental health care. These children who are most vulnerable to traumatic experiences and mental illness have no support.
Young children living in war zones aren't spending their time playing or building healthy socio-emotional relationships with peers. Instead,
Children who suffer from PTSD become distant and recreate their trauma during playtime. They regularly have nightmares and experience difficulty falling asleep. Some experience difficulties with speech and separation anxiety. These children need access to proper mental health resources. They need protection for their developing brains from further damage. They need a chance at a healthy life. A chance to create a bright future for themselves.
“Our children are our greatest treasure, they are our future. Those who abuse them tear the fabric of our society.” - Nelson Mandela