The Gaza Strip has become the world’s largest open-air prison triggering a humanitarian crisis in which 1.9 million Palestinians live under. Besieged by the Israeli military, it has limited access to education, economic opportunities, medical aid, clean water and electricity, violating Palestinian human rights, particularly children. With over 50 per cent of people in Gaza under the age of 18, this man-made catastrophe has led to severe psychological consequences, destroying any fragment of resilience.
The imminent fear of attacks by Israeli jets and fires of live ammunition has caused deep psychological distress and instability. For children, this has had lasting impacts on their physical and mental health from hearing loss due to jets to severe PTSD, undermining Palestinian children’s rights to safety and security.
Research conducted by Save the Children found that symptoms of depression, hyperactivity, isolation and aggression were reported by 95 per cent of children living in the Gaza Strip. Findings also showed that Gazan children suffered from recurring nightmares, had difficulties sleeping, and were living under constant fear. The direct correlation between mental health and war has been seen in many studies with findings showing its negative effects on children in particular.
With a lack of medical and psychological services in Gaza and continued violence from Israel, it is unlikely the victims of mental trauma are likely to disappear. What is required is an urgent need to lift the siege so that medical professionals can gain access to Gaza.
Most children in Gaza have lived under the blockade for their entire lives. The inability to flee the constant violence and escape the restrictions has mentally scarred these children. As they grow without being treated, it means their mental health problems will continue into adulthood and be passed on to the next generation.
Thus, urgent action to rehabilitate children of war is necessary and the prioritisation of counsellors is essential to ensure the wellbeing of Palestinian children. The international community have a duty to ensure that Palestinian children’s rights are being promoted and protected, and it is evident that they need to step up and assist in ensuring the health and psycho-social support is available and easily accessible. Stressing the importance of such external resources, as well as pushing for the end of the Israeli siege, will provide Palestinian children with a glimmer of hope into their future.