As Gaza attempts to recover from the 11-day Israeli insurgency, women and psychologists have raised concerns that the effects of the violence will be felt among children in the Strip.
Hala Shehada, a 28-year-old woman from northern Gaza in the Beit Hanoun area, told Al Jazeera when a hurricane hit Gaza earlier this month, she found herself recalling the tragic memories of Israeli evils of 2014 like “yesterday”.
“The recent events in Gaza have brought me back to the worst memories since six years ago after my husband was killed,” Shehada said.
“But this time was very bad. My six-year-old daughter Toleen, who was born five months after her father’s death, became terrified during the ordeal. ”
The youth were among the group most affected by the final project in Israel on the besieged coast. Airstrikes in Israel have killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and injured more than 1,900 people.
The two children were among 12 people killed in Israel by rockets fired by Hamas and other militants from Gaza.
The Israeli offensive also destroyed 1,800 dormitories in Gaza and destroyed at least 14,300 others. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been forced to hide in UN-run schools.
Despite the end of the Israeli-Hamas conflict on May 21, many families continue to suffer. Many had already been confused with the 51-day Israel A bomb blast in Gaza in 2014. This killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 500 children.
Remembering the dangers
Shehada was just married at the time and was four months pregnant when her husband, journalist Khaled Hamad, was killed by Israeli terrorists in the Al-Shuja’iya region on July 20, 2014.
At least 67 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds more injured overnight in a major Israeli uprising that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas described as a “massacre” at the time.
Shehada described his experiences in both wars. “Living in Gaza means repeating the horrors over and over again. War is the worst thing in the world. And real war is something you have to have memories of.”
The worst part of the recent disappointment was “being a mother who should comfort her daughter” while not ending, Shehada said.
“It is very difficult to be a mother in Gaza. I was very scared. My daughter’s mind was very low during the violence. She cried a lot when she heard about the bomb,” Shehada said.
“Even here with the end of the war, Toleen is suffering from nightmares. She wakes up screaming in the middle of the night. I try to comfort her, but it kills me to see her like this,” she added, weeping.
Like many women in Gaza, Shehada said he and his daughter needed a mental rehabilitation. “What I was able to deal with in 2014 came back to haunt me,” he said.
But without much medical attention in Gaza, Shehada said most people in the Strip are dealing with these risks alone.
“My son’s plight makes me wonder how many children in Gaza have suffered in their entire lives because of the war.”
Parents strive to be resilient
Reem Jarjour, 30, a development worker and mother of three, told Al Jazeera that he has been struggling to stay strong and stable for his children since the Israeli attack.
“Children are deeply affected by their parents’ mental health, which is why my husband and I have tried so hard to hide their pain in front of them,” said Jarjour, who has a six-year-old son and five-year-old son.
“I try to apply what I’ve learned as a co-worker by engaging them in activities like drawing and drawing,” but it didn’t work, he explained.
When the tower of Al-Jawhara where his father lived faced Israeli threats on May 11, he was “deeply saddened”, he said.
“I cried when I thought of my family and their destination,” she says. “I could not communicate with them because of the chaos at the time.
“But what compelled me to stop was seeing my children looking at me and crying. I felt I had to work hard for them, ”said Jarjour.
Jarjour and her husband decided to stay in the same room with their children all the time in a bad way to try to comfort them.
“I did not leave them alone. But I could tell by the look in her eyes that she was so scared. The children are aware of everything that is going on around them, ”he said.
Many mothers in Gaza complain that symptoms of the disorder are beginning to recur in their children, Jarjour said.
“My friends tell me that their children have lost their appetite, while others have problems including speech problems and bathing in bed,” she explained.
“Everyone has lost their power in this war, including the parents. The children were weak communication. It has been brutal, “said Jarjour, who hopes that special mental health programs have been set up recently in Gaza to help children and their parents.
Problems are ‘not new’
Ghada Redwan, a psychotherapist specialist at the Palestine Trauma Center UK, said several families in Gaza contacted the center during a traumatic event and asked for mental health support for their children.
Redwan provides essential training that is widely used by health professionals to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. It provides families and children with ways to help them change the way they remember the ongoing dangers.
“There are many cases of serious fear and panic. There are also children whose symptoms are manifested in anger and vomiting, “Redwan told Al Jazeera.
He also advised mothers to try to be calm in front of their children, especially during the bombing, which seems to be easier to do than to do.
Mr Redwan said while dealing with the aftermath of the Israeli occupation was not new to Gaza, the potential for help was limited while the need for care was high.
Sharing her experience as the mother of two six- and three-year-old girls, Redwan told Al Jazeera that it was very difficult for her not to go through what had happened.
“I let my children hear the news, watch the cartoons, and do things for their age. “Every time they were threatened by a bomb, I would hold them to comfort them,” he said.
“It was hard work for me and my husband, but we worked hard. I was fortunate enough to have the experience to help with mental health, which helps me to support my children. What about the thousands of families that did not? ”
‘Big differences in careers’
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), 12 of the 66 children killed in Israeli casualties were involved in its program to help Gaza children cope with past military pressures.
Survivors of the tragedy may remember what happened at night when the bomb exploded, the NRC said in a recent statement, adding that children in Gaza have five dreams each week.
Hozayfa Yazji, Gaza’s regional director for the NRC, said the figures showed the magnitude of the crisis that the recent 11-day demonstrations in Gaza had brought with it many children.
According to Yazji, the NRC has worked with 118 schools, assisting 75,000 children since its inception in Gaza in 2012.
“But now we are facing a serious crisis in the case of insane asylum after the recent outbreak,” he said. “The number of children in need of psychiatric treatment is expected to triple.”
Yazji said the difficult support conditions that children are facing in the Gaza Strip improve their mental health, but the military invasion has a huge impact on children.
The 14-year-old Israeli coastal siege, rising poverty representing 50 percent of the population, unemployment of 55%, and declining health care are all making children more vulnerable, he said.
Children under the age of 18 make up 45 percent of the population in the Gaza Strip. “This makes intervention of support programs more urgent.” Yazji told Al Jazeera.
He also said that 90% of Gaza residents are in need of psychiatric treatment because of repeated military harassment and deplorable conditions in the Strip.
“The need cannot be met. We are working with a number of government and international agencies to implement our programs, ”said Yazji, adding that the agency hopes to train more people who can help people with dementia throughout Gaza.