Most children in the Gaza Strip have been tear gassed, have had their homes searched and damaged, and have witnessed shooting, fighting and explosions. Many have been injured or tortured as a result of chronic war that spans generations, says a recent Queen’s University study.
According to the study, there is a pattern of violence against Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip that has serious and debilitating psychiatric and psychological effects.
“Gaza has been an occupied territory for a long time, and still is; Israel controls its borders, its air and water access. It has been described as a vast open-air detention centre” says Queen’s community health and epidemiology researcher John Pringle. “Bombs are being launched into Gaza during this latest eruption of Middle East violence, but are being ignored in light of other crises.”
The Psychological Effects of War on Palestinian Children is Pringle’s Master’s thesis and the only study of its kind, analyzing data from The Gaza Child Health Survey to describe relationships between war trauma and psychological problems in children.
According to the study, a child in Gaza who has had a severe head injury has 4 times the risk of emotional disorder. A child who has been severely beaten has 3.9 times the risk of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. A child who has witnessed friends injured or killed has 13 times the risk of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A child in a refugee camp has 5 times a greater chance of witnessing traumatic events and 4 times a greater chance of direct physical trauma.
“Children comprise 47 per cent of Gaza’s population and are extremely vulnerable,” Pringle adds. “It seems the international community is neglecting them, that somehow Palestinian children don’t deserve the protections guaranteed under the Geneva Convention and humanitarian law. We must remember that where we drop our bombs, plant our landmines, and aim our guns, is where children are born, play, and go to school.”
Mr. Pringle is also a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF). MSF is an emergency medical humanitarian aid organization that primarily works in war-zones with populations in danger, usually in refugee camps. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.
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