Trauma Continues in Gaza, by Yasser Abu Jamei (Le Monde Diplomacy)

T.very A few years ago, when I started my career as a young doctor in Gaza, I saw children playing in the streets. One boy pretended to confront an imaginary Israeli military jeep, while another pretended to be an Israeli soldier and chased after him. They imitated what they experienced in their daily lives.

Now in the play therapy room of the Gaza Regional Mental Health Program (GCMHP) where I work, I see children playing with toy tanks and fighter jets. There are all sorts of toys imaginable, and these are the ones most children choose. Children continue to act out their lives, just as they did in play decades ago. However, their lives are becoming more and more violent and traumatic, and I hope the situation doesn’t get any worse.

This shocking violence came to the fore during last summer’s Israeli shelling of Gaza. Gaza is a small, overcrowded area in the Mediterranean region that has been under Israeli military occupation for 56 years and under a devastating Israeli-imposed siege and naval blockade for 15 years. More than two million Palestinians trapped in Gaza have nowhere to run and nowhere to seek protection when Israeli bombs start dropping.killed in attacks last summer 46 people, Among them, 16 children in 3 more than 150 children I was among the injured.

Gaza’s children were still mentally recovered from the last major Israeli airstrike in May 2021. Additionally, since 2008, there have been five devastating Israeli attacks on Gaza, as well as many smaller attacks.Save the Children was recently released report The survey found that 80% of children in Gaza reported signs of emotional distress. Gaza has about 1 million children (47% of the population), which translates to her 800,000 children living with fear, depression, anxiety and grief. was before the recent violence.

In the months and years to come, more children will fear being separated from their parents. The child resumes bedwetting and experiences nightmares and other sleep disturbances. More children will act aggressively or shut down completely. Children have difficulty concentrating at school. Some may have suicidal thoughts.

As a mental health professional, I understand the typical trajectory of trauma and recovery. Citizens are safe. A shocking event occurs. The safety of the population has been compromised and the threat of harm is serious. Then help and support arrive, the threat subsides, and people’s central task is to resume normal life so that healing can begin.

In Gaza this is not the case at all. Life before this bombing was already defined by ongoing trauma across generations. Two-thirds of Gaza’s population are refugees or descendants of refugees expelled from the country that became Israel in 1948 and denied the right to return. Add to this more than half a century of brutal Israeli military rule and a decade and a half of siege and blockade. condemned by the United Nations and human rights organization This is a collective punishment for all citizens and is illegal. There are severe shortages of clean water, electricity and medical supplies as a result of this humanitarian disaster. People are unable to travel abroad or to the West Bank to seek critical care, study, work, or visit family and friends. All of these contribute to endemic poverty. more than half The people of Gaza are in poverty. Unemployment rate 44.7%It is even higher in young people.

When conditions are so dire here that the UN has repeatedly warned that Gaza may soon become uninhabitable, how can we get back to ‘normal life’? How can children who have never felt safe be able to feel safe again? Even after the ceasefire, Israeli military drones regularly buzz overhead, avoiding new attacks. Traumatic memories are evoked by the realization that they cannot be At GCMHP, we do our best to address this trauma and bring hope, but the ongoing realities of violence and deprivation hinder the healing process.

I don’t want the children of Gaza, including my own, to just survive. I want them to grow up in peace, security and freedom and reach their full potential, as all children should. It is our duty as mental health providers, teachers and parents to support these children. To repeatedly traumatize them and deprive them of the necessities of life does not benefit anyone, including the Israelis.

The United States and the international community should finally lift the blockade, respect human rights, press Israel to stop attacking Gaza, and give Gaza’s children something to know but violence, deprivation and fear. need to get Trauma Continues in Gaza, by Yasser Abu Jamei (Le Monde Diplomacy)

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