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The Extreme Toll Waged on the Minds of the Children

November 18, 2009

The Electronic Intifada recently carried a piece written by Aditya Ganapathiraju that examines the mental healthof the residents of Gaza.  Ganapathiraju cites the Gaza Community Mental Health Program’s most recent study, which collected its data for the report in February 2009, weeks after the end of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.  The study in question, entitled “Trauma, Grief and PTSD in Palestinian children victims of war on Gaza,” took a sample of 374 children (177 males and 197 males) aged 6 to 17.

Though the study as a whole surely demands attention, some of its more shocking findings bear mentioning here:  91% of surveyed children reported having seen the effects of Israeli shelling on the ground; 69% claimed to have been displaced by the Israeli assault; over 50% had reportedly witnessed an assassination by Israeli air attack; some 32% had themselves seen the destruction of their houses by the Israeli military; 23% had been witness to the killing of a friend; and over 22% had been exposed to burning by bombs, including white phosphorus.  Nearly 99% of the children recall having felt unsafe while at home during the course of the assault, and only 5% report having thought that people outside their immediate families could protect them during the 22-day ordeal.

The report’s authors find the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder among the children they interviewed to be comparable to that observed in similar studies of children of the Darfur region of Sudan.

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