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UNICEF and ECHO help West Bank children to deal with daily stress

© UNICEF oPt/2009/Pirozzi
Afif Thaeir Shamasheh, 6, plays on a swing at a playground in Jayous village, near the Barrier in the West Bank. His mother stands behind him.

By Chris Niles

JAYOUS VILLAGE, 28 April 2009 – The village of Jayous is next to the Barrier that separates Israel from the West Bank. Jayous is the venue for weekly demonstrations against the Barrier and is the site of regular search-and-arrest operations.

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In the past month alone, there have been 11 searches, two Palestinian arrests and a total of 27 hours of curfew imposed on the village.

The tense political situation has a devastating effect on Jayous’s youngest residents. Afif Thaeir Shamasheh, 6, lives close to the wall, and soldiers often come to his family’s home. “I only get scared from soldiers when they come to our house,” he said.

Individual and group counselling
Recently Afif has started acting up in school.

“I noticed that he had fear; his studies were suffering and it was difficult to control him in class,” said Afif’s teacher, Farouk Khrisheh.

Mr. Khrisheh arranged for Afif to join a counselling group supported by UNICEF and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department, or ECHO. As part of his treatment, Afif also receives individual counselling from a trained social worker.

‘He was his normal self’
UNICEF has worked with ECHO since 2003 to help Palestinian children and their families cope with the conflict and violence that affect their daily lives.

“The project is about protecting childhood in the Palestinian territories,” said ECHO Head of Office Herve Caiveau. UNICEF and ECHO aim to boost children’s self-confidence and give them hope for the future, and to help families cope with the challenges their children face.

Afif’s family has noticed the change in his outlook – as well as the fact that he is no longer frightened of soldiers.
“Even when went to visit his grandparents during the curfew, he wasn't scared. He was his normal self,” said Afif’s mother, Raidah Shamasheh.

School work and socialization
Children who receive psychological help are better able to deal with their problems, and Afif is no exception. His teacher says that his school work and socialization have improved. Afif smiles more and enjoys going to the playground and riding his bicycle around the village streets.

“He’s started to do more activities, he expresses himself more and has more freedom in playing, drawing, participating in activities with his friends,” said Mr. Khrisheh.



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