Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A generation traumatized

Rami Almeghari writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 21 October 2009

"Like many other children in the region, 10-year-old Hiba Hammad from the northern Gaza Strip witnessed atrocities by the Israeli army against the population of Gaza during its assault on the coastal strip last winter.

Hiba's smiled returned only after four months of intensive psychological therapy at the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution.

"Thank God that Hiba returned back to normal after we almost lost hope of her recovering. Right after the war, Hiba kept silent, isolated, fearful of everything around her, especially strangers. But now she is getting much better as she scored 91 percent in the final exams of her school year. Moreover, she now smiles, socializes and even jokes, thank God," said Hiba's sister Ettaf, who lost her husband during the attacks.

Wearing a red dress, Hiba sat opposite to her therapist, Haniya Balousha, at the center. It was her first visit there since her treatment was completed four months ago. On that day, Hiba received gifts to celebrate the end of her treatment and her recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).......

According to Balousha, Hiba's case is quite similar to the situation of many children in Gaza during and after Israel's attacks. She explained that since the war came to an end in January, the center treated more than 350 children suffering from PTSD......

According to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP), more than 60 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza suffer PTSD symptoms.

The GCMPHP's survey also shows that hundreds of children were exposed to white phosphorous fired by the Israeli army during the 22 days of attacks on Gaza.

Abdelaziz Thabet, who works with the GCMHP, said that exposure to white phosphorous has made the majority of children and parents in Gaza feel unsafe.

"The most common traumatic events still include hearing sonic booms from the jet fighters, hearing shelling of the area, witnessing mutilation on TV, deprivation from water or electricity......"

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