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Reeling from constant violence

25 June 2021, Impact of Our Work

Helping the shattered children of Gaza pick up the pieces 

The children of Gaza have been left traumatised by the violent escalation witnessed last month. Although a ceasefire has now been declared, over 8400 people remain internally displaced, 179 government schools and 33 health facilities were either destroyed or partially damaged and are in desperate need of rebuilding. The overall situation remains highly volatile across the occupied Palestinian territories.

The ongoing crisis in Gaza has left children, from toddlers to teenagers in permanent state of anxiety and fear. Many of those children have already lived through years of blockades and conflict which has exacerbated their access to essential public services such as shelter and education.
 
Just being in the dark or hearing a loud noise can cause panic attacks on a daily basis.
Whenever there’s an air strike or a loud noise or something we start to cry. And my little sister too starts to cry when there’s a loud sound or something she just starts to cry and she wakes up terrified.

Habiba*, 10

Save the Children’s teams on the ground are witnessing severe mental health and behavioral issues among the children of Gaza. Worrying signs of distress that include constant shaking, insomnia, and uncontrolled urination, have been reported by our teams. Parents are telling us how their children cling to them and are startled by the sound of an ambulance; many wake up in the middle of the night with nightmares. Without the right psychological support, this generation of Palestinian children will suffer the mental health impacts for years to come.

Mariam was forever changed by an airstrike

Mariam* and her family live in the Gaza strip. But her life changed forever the night a missile strike left shrapnel embedded in her left ear. “There was shrapnel in my left ear,” she says. “I was throwing up blood and my nose and ears were bleeding too.”


Photo: Mariam
Credits: Hurras Network / Save the Children


She became severely traumatised and withdrawn, struggling even to communicate with her own brothers. Her grades dropped at school and, she says, her friends started “looking at me differently”. She couldn’t do the things she’d been able to do before – even going outside to play left her feeling dizzy. Fiercely independent, she hated having things done for her. She felt increasingly isolated, anxious and depressed – but something inside her refused to be defeated.
 
Save the Children first visited Mariam in hospital to provide counselling. After she was discharged she attended group counselling sessions for five months. This support has helped her continue her friendships at school, get on better with family members and sleep without nightmares. 

The experience changed me for the worse. But I worked on myself and got better. Now, I am stronger and nothing scares me.

Mariam*

Her desperate wish now is for the conflict to cease. “Civilians shouldn’t get hurt. This is madness. What do we have to do with the war? It makes me mad because we are just living in our homes, not doing anything, not carrying weapons… We are not fighting anyone. We just want a safe and peaceful life. We don’t want war or bombing. We don’t want to hear the sound of helicopters above our heads. We just want peace.”

With your support we can be there for Gaza’s children

Children in the Gaza strip need support, just like Mariam, and deserve to be healthy, to be protected, to be educated, and to grow up to have a chance to make a difference in their communities.
 
Save the Children has been working for Palestinian children’s rights in these areas which today makes up the occupied Palestinian territory since 1953. Following the 2014 Gaza war, which is the most recent severe escalation in the conflict, Save the Children scaled up its operations in the Gaza strip, now reaching nearly 50,000 people, of which 70% are children.

Thanks to support from our donors, this work includes deploying case workers and counsellors who are actively identifying and supporting the most vulnerable children. So far, as part of Save the Children’s response over 1,000 food vouchers have been distributed to the most vulnerable, hundreds of baby kits and water tanks were distributed to families with children who lost their home. Save the Children will also facilitate 100 summer camps over the coming weeks as a priority intervention. We have also prepared to distribute over a thousand education kits to displaced children to enable distance learning, and a return to school in August.
*Names changed to protect identities.

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