Gaza’s children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder

By Reuters

The repeated exposure to violence has left many of Gaza’s children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Children, who account for more than half of the 1.7 million people in Gaza, have been back to school, but there is still a long way for them to be back to normal.

These children, who have lived through two wars with Israel, are still coming to terms with what happened during Israel’s week-long bombardment of Gaza.

Saad Hasanat, 13, who lost six of his cousins, said the memory of seeing their bodies still haunts him.

“When I remember that scene I feel my body shudder. Deep inside I imagine being in their place and people looking at my dead body. It's too much to bear, it was so terrible,” said Saad Hasanat.

Death and destruction have become part of Gaza’s children’s life and their trauma is exacerbated by repeated exposure.

“It’s actually very hard to speak about post-traumatic stress disorder when the trauma keeps going on and keeps recurring. So, it’s no longer an event which happens in your life and then you have the time to deal with it but it’s something that keeps happening and that’s what these children keep witnessing,” said Karl Schembri, staff member of the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said 34 children were killed during the eight day war and hundreds more were wounded. Those who survived are still struggling to piece together what happened.

Mazem Rayyan, 16, and his family were at home when a missile hit their neighbor’s house. The family all managed to escape unharmed but their home was completely destroyed.

“All my life has changed. All, all, all, my life has changed from good things to bad things. You can say from one hundred to zero. It has been destroyed. I don’t know what I will do now. Really, I don’t know,” said Mazen Rayyan.

It will take time for Gaza to repair the damage of war but it will take far longer for the mental scars to heal.