A Silent Cry for Help
By Reem Tarazi
Hiba Dawas and her husband Abed couldn’t understand what was wrong with their 12-year-old son Tariq. He wet his bed at night frequently, and would often turn violent. Frustrated, Abed was in turn rough with him.
Tariq's family lives in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, not far from the border with Israel. This town of 85,000 people, over half of whom are refugees, is often caught in the crossfire of a conflict that has endured for more than two generations. Households live in a near-constant state of insecurity. "Every time Tariq hears the shelling, he cries and panics," said Hiba.
Hiba and Abed turned to a relative, Um Abed, for help. Um Abed had participated in sessions organized by the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution with the support of UNICEF, which cater specifically to the psychosocial needs of Palestinian caregivers and their children.
There, she learnt that Tariq’s behavior was typical of children who are consistently exposed to violence and insecurity. She also learnt several ways in which Hiba and Abed could help Tariq understand his own behavior, and what they could do to relieve some of his stress. Most importantly perhaps, she succeeded in convincing Abed to try a gentler approach with Tariq and shared with him some of the techniques she had learned during the sessions.
“Tariq became a good listener, he stopped wetting his bed and became less violent with his friends and sisters”, said Hiba, clearly proud of the changes in her son.
Since 2004, UNICEF has worked with the Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolution and the YMCA to provide psychosocial support to both parents and children in conflict zones.
This year, 12 psychosocial teams established in Gaza and the West Bank meet with around 3,000 parents and 4,000 children each month, offering almost daily awareness sessions in neighborhoods and rural areas.
Parents and children attend separate sessions, though they also sit in on parts of each others sessions. A full course includes between six and 10 sessions.
The teams have targeted the poorest communities first, along with those living near the separation barrier, military or buffer zones, and in enclaves. The teams do home visits as well during especially tense periods, and children identified as needing more support are referred for in-depth sessions.
“I am very happy now. My father treats me nicely – we are friends,” Tariq said.
Funding for the psychosocial teams comes from the Austrian government and ECHO.