MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) - The United Nations (UN) estimates that over 375,000 Palestinian children require psychological help due to the Gaza conflict in addition to three previous conflicts with Israel since 2006.
"This time, for an eight- or nine-year-old child in Gaza, it's very, very intense indeed, because there is this cumulative toll of trauma from repeated conflicts since 2006," said Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which has 200 psychotherapists working in about 90 clinics in Gaza.
According to a senior UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official, at least 469 children have been killed and over 3,000 injured in Gaza since the conflict began in July. Children are said to be suffering psychologically from the Israeli airstrikes, witnessing the death of family members, hearing rockets flying overhead, or being wounded. In addition to the trauma faced by Palestinian children, tens of thousands of Israeli children are also being mentally scarred by the current conflict as well as seven years of Hamas control in captured Gaza.
"Our expectation is that more than 30 percent of the people here in Gaza will develop a psychiatric disorder," Newsweek quoted Hassan Zyada, a psychologist from the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, as saying.
Zyada claimed the current conflict in Gaza is the worst since 2006, with families losing multiple loved ones.
Some 219 schools have been damaged by Israeli airstrikes so far, while 22 have been completely destroyed, according to UNICEF. Newsweek reported the psychological problem among children has caused UNRWA to include psychotherapy as a part of the curriculum for Gaza schools.
Children immersed in the Gaza conflict experience a range of trauma symptoms, including nightmares, bed-wetting, behavioral regression, mental anxiety and, in some cases, the inability to process or speak about their struggles.
Human rights groups are saying a dangerous trend is forming in which Israeli forces are systematically targeting Palestinian children and youths.
Israeli-Palestinian rocket fire resumed on Tuesday, when both Israel and Palestine threatened to quit peace talks. The overall death toll in Gaza is currently over 2,000 since Israel’s government launched operation Protective Edge on July 8.