The recent conflict in Gaza has taken an immense toll on the psychological health of the Palestinian youth, with reports suggesting that more than 370 000 children are in need of urgent psychological intervention.
The war has marked the third such Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip in under 6 years, with many of the youth still battling to overcome the effects of Israel’s previous operation ‘Pillar of Defense’.
Dr.Yasser M Zaydiah, a psychiatrist with the NGO Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, has been trying to provide psychological support for the families and children affected by recent the crisis.
Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat, he highlighted the severity of Israel’s nearly two month long assault.
“The occupation media has announced that more than 34 000 shells were used in the bombardment of the Gaza Strip. The Strip is about 370 000 square kilometers. Now imagine 34 000 shells falling on such a small geographical area, with more than 1.8 million inhabitants,” he explained.
With more than half of Gaza’s population falling under the youth bracket, Zaydiah said more than 900 000 children were relentlessly exposed to bombings for nearly 60 days on end. This has led to many developing a huge sense of insecurity.
During the first days of the conflict, Zaydiah said they seen an overwhelming amount of children showing symptoms of mental trauma, such as clinging onto their parents, experiencing nightmares, an inability to sleep, abdominal pains, as well as wetting their beds.
“The situation did not improve over time. This is because during the third and fourth week of the offensive, a huge displacement of people took place in the Gaza Strip. According to official figures, more than 400 000 people within Gaza were displaced,” he noted.
As a result, he suspected that roughly 370 000 children were now in need of psychological assistance.
“These numbers are really huge and vast, and necessitate a huge plan on intervention,” he said.
The Community Mental Health Programme currently have three community centres providing mental health services in Gaza, with six mobile teams visiting communities to assess the conditions of Gazans. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)