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Clinton to press Israel on Gaza as children suffer
“Most of the children cry when they hear an explosion or any loud noise,” said Mr. Abu Hein. “Many are bed-wetting. They bite their nails or have nervous twitches. They become afraid, especially at night.”
Mr. Abu Hein, a psychologist and consultant for UNICEF, said the therapy is a kind of “first aid” for the people of Gaza. Further stages of the program, which will span six months to one year, include behavior modification for cases of severe depression and violent anger.
“We have a large number of highly stressed and traumatized people. It’s a big suffering,” said Mr. Abu Hein, who heads the Community Training and Crisis Management Center in Gaza City.
A survey carried out by the center after the war among 3,000 children and 1,000 adults revealed that 97 percent of children are afraid of the dark and cling to their parents, 76 percent exhibit behavioral problems such as social withdrawal, 70 percent are depressed, and 71 percent have trouble sleeping.
Mr. Abu Hein said the support program is aimed to help more than 8,000 people, mainly schoolchildren. A Washington-based group, American Near East Refugee Aid, and Norwegian Aid are providing financial assistance, he said.
Mr. Abu Hein said that all of Gaza’s inhabitants had been “psychologically injured” to some extent by the bombardment, even though Israel insisted that it sought to limit civilian casualties.
“Nowhere in Gaza was safe,” he said.
Although initial reports of Israel targeting a U.N. school proved inaccurate, more than a half dozen schools were destroyed and about 175 damaged.
“The emotional problems children face result not just from three weeks of severe conflict, but prior to that, a year and a half of essentially being under siege,” said Ashley Clements, a spokesman for the charity World Vision. “They have been unable to get out and do not live what most of us would regard as a normal childhood.”
Mr. Clements said assessments made before the offensive showed “disturbing numbers” of children who were afraid of being separated from their parents and other family members.
“It was bad before the recent conflict, but now it’s been exacerbated significantly,” he said.
When you see your family killed in front of you and you’re unable to save them, it’s a big shock,” said Almaza al-Sammouri, 12, as she and her classmates drew pictures during a therapy session at the An-Jalout Islamic Girls School in Gaza City.
“I want to draw about when the Israelis kicked us out of our house and how I found my family martyred when a missile hit the place where we sought shelter,” she said of the air strike that killed her mother, four siblings and several uncles.
“I found them piled on each other. Some were dead. Others died a little later because we couldn’t get an ambulance. It was a huge shock. I couldn’t move or do anything,” she said.
“I want to become a first-aid nurse because if this happens again, I would be able to treat them so they wouldn’t die,” she said.
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