At a glance: State of Palestine

Counselling sessions help children cope with their fears after recent violence in Gaza

UNICEF Image: Counselling sessions, Gaza
© UNICEF video
Recent renewed violence in Gaza left many children at home for days, frightened by the sounds they heard.

GAZA, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 24 March 2008 – A renewed round of fighting that began late last month brought chaos and destruction to Jabalia, located at the northern end of the Gaza Strip. The violence exacerbated an already deteriorating humanitarian situation stemming from the near total blockade of Gaza since June 2007. 

At least 25 children in Gaza were reportedly killed during military incursions that followed cross-border rocket attacks into southern Israel.

In the aftermath of the fighting, UNICEF, in partnership with the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR), has been working to help distressed children through group counselling sessions.

Children frightened by violence

“Life was horrible,” recalled Ahmad, 12. “The fighting was so intense for days. The situation was really bad.”

Unable to venture out, families and children hid in their homes, many without water or electricity. Many children were extremely frightened by the sounds of violence outside their doors. Parents and caregivers have reported seeing children show signs of aggression, hyperactivity, nightmares, bed-wetting and fear of being alone. 

UNICEF Image: Counselling sessions, Gaza
© UNICEF video
UNICEF and its partners believe counselling sessions like this one will help Palestinian children gain critical skills to address their feelings.

“My little brother was so scared and now he cannot go to the bathroom alone.  He wakes up at night with nightmares and we stand next to his bed trying to calm him down, telling him not to be scared,” said Tahreer, 12.

Healing through talk

“Children witnessed the killing and injuring of people,” said PCDCR Project Coordinator Inas Al Khatib.  “All of these factors led to problems among children.  We are now trying to help children overcome their behavioural problems and to adapt to situation.”

The psychosocial intervention programme, funded by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department, provides a safe and open space for children to talk about their fears while providing them with needed skills to cope with their emotions. For children in need of advanced care, the partners have ensured that individual counselling sessions are also available.

While the streets of Jabalia are quiet for now, young people here still face  uncertainty. Interventions like those provided by UNICEF and PCDCR are helping them to maintain hope for a better future.

“As I grow up,” said Ahmad, “I hope to become a physician to treat the injured mostly children and to put an end to their suffering.”


 

 

Video

16 March 2008:
UNICEF Correspondent Anwulika Okafor reports on efforts to help children affected by recent violence in Gaza.
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