Beyond School Books - a podcast series on education in emergencies
NEW YORK, USA, 17 March 2009 – The recent Gaza conflict left about 1,000 Palestinian civilians dead and many more injured. Children, who make up more than half of Gaza’s population, have born the brunt of the conflict and its aftermath. Approximately a third of those killed or injured were children, and many others lost caregivers and siblings.
The violence ended on 18 January. Since then, children and their families have suffered from shortages of food, shelter and basic commodities – and from the widespread destruction of homes, schools, health facilities, shops, mosques and play areas.
A difficult environment
Mr. Ging points out the effect of “shortages of very basic supplies – and then, of course, the psychological effects in terms of there being no perspectives for kids growing up. They are living in a very oppressive, depressing and difficult environment.
“So when they look and try to contemplate their future, their experience is not giving them any basis of hope,” he adds. “It’s devastating, it’s unbearable and, sadly, it’s getting worse.”
Schools as shelters
“They were drawing rockets and bombs and tanks and all that,” he says. “Which is no doubt a necessary part of their cathartic experience, but it is also depressing to see that’s what children are drawing and are obsessed by.”
Dr. Eyad Rajab El Sarraj is an internationally recognized Palestinian psychiatrist, researcher and human rights advocate from Gaza whose work documenting the effects of war and violence on children there is well known. “Layer after layer of trauma has left indefinite damage on the psyche of the children,” says Dr. El Sarraj, “to the extent that from one generation to the other, we grow up to become more violent and more desperate.”
Click here to listen to a UNICEF Radio podcast discussion on the crisis in Gaza, featuring these guests:
Sir John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; John Ging, head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency; and Dr. Eyad Rajab El Sarraj, founder and Medical Director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.