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Palestine children suffering trauma, mental disorder by recent airstrikes
  Date : 24-07-2024

•           Consternation fear of death shudder them every moment.

•           Deep wounds the violence opened remain fresh.

•           Gaza people enduring layer upon layer of trauma for decades.

•           World leaders should cast eyes upon Palestine children.


Abdul Khaleque Khandker

The recent ruthless and savage bombardments that went on upon Palestinian babies and children; men and women and others had left a mammoth trail of deaths and damages all over the Gaza strip and elsewhere in Palestine about which the world people witnessed.

The barbaric airstrikes that continued as many as eleven days at a stretch, killed not 5 or 10 but as many as 66 innocent human babies and 256 innocent Palestinians. About 2,000 were injured. Apart from these, annihilation of high-rise buildings, offices, homes and hospitals was quite inhuman and unprecedented.

If those loss of lives and damages were end of the gory episode, it was different thing.

But now a very poignant news has hit the headline which comes from the pen of psychiatrist physician, who has launched a survey among the children in Palestine. he has found that the dire aftermath of the airstrikes by the Israeli forces have brought about trauma and mental order of the surviving children in Palestine.

The physician said, the children of Palestine are now suffering from trauma and mental deficiencies because of the atrocities and savageness that were inflicted upon them by the most mischievous airstrikes by the Israeli army.

The children are now living in utterly fear of the next air attack. They are in the consternation fear of death losing their loved ones and homes. It is hard to imagine how utterly traumatizing their reality has been, the physician further added.

He said, “Residents of Gaza have been enduring layer upon layer of trauma for decades. The deadly Israeli onslaughts are the most damaging – four in the last 14 years – but they occur against the background of chronic trauma imposed by the occupation.

Atrocities like the seizure and demolition of homes, oppressive policing, unlawful killings, detention without trial and torture all inflict profound psychological damage. Such perpetual subjugation can destroy self-esteem and leave victims in a state of ‘learned helplessness’ – resigned to their fate and vulnerable to depression”.

That physician thinks, the May 20 ceasefire between the Israeli government and Hamas brought the latest round of conflict in the region to an end and led to a collective sigh of relief from the beleaguered Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.

But the deep wounds the violence opened remain fresh.

As the fragile ceasefire appears to hold, those who survived the conflict are once again trying to rebuild their lives. But the damage inflicted during those 11 days was not only physical and material. The mental health of Palestinians in Gaza was also bombarded during those dark days.

For most other countries, COVID-19 is currently the primary public and mental health concern. In Palestine, it is almost an afterthought, superseded by more dangerous assailants – air attacks and oppression. Nonetheless, more than 110,000 people in Gaza have been infected with the virus thus far, with more than 1,000 deaths. There are only enough doses available to vaccinate 60,200 people in a population of more than 2 million. So pandemic anxiety is also rampant in Gaza, adding to the mental burden.

All this turmoil translates to actual mental illness. In Gaza, rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which features disrupted sleep, feeling permanently on edge and easily startled, flashbacks and nightmares of the trauma and emotional numbing – are incredibly high. A 2017 study found 37 percent of the adults living on the Strip qualify for the diagnosis.

In my work as a psychiatrist, I have treated refugees with PTSD from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can be severe, complex and protracted. It would be almost impossible to start the healing while the root causes persist. The head of mental health services in Palestine once said her people do not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because their trauma is ongoing. Present-traumatic stress disorder may be a more fitting description of their experience.

As is often the case in these situations, children suffer the most in Palestine. A study conducted in 2020, before the latest conflict, found that 53.5 per cent of children in Gaza were suffering from PTSD. Nearly 90 percent had experienced personal trauma. The Norwegian Refugee Council reported the devastating news that 11 of the children killed by the recent Israeli air attacks were participating in its trauma programme. No wonder UN Secretary-General António Guterres described Gaza as “hell on earth” for children.

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