5 October 2006 – Ninety-one Palestinian children have already been killed this year in the West Bank and Gaza, almost double the number for the whole of 2005, with youngsters suffering increasing levels of stress from violence and fear in the Israeli-Palestinians conflict, according to the latest United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) update.
“They are confronted with regular military operations, shelling, house demolitions, checkpoints on their way to schools,” UNICEF Child Protection Officer Anne Grandjean said. “As a result we find high prevalence of signs of stress such as anxiety, eating and sleeping disorders, and difficulties concentrating in school.
“All of these signs need to be tackled as soon as possible to avoid a long-lasting impact on the child’s development,” she added.
UNICEF and the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission have established teams of social workers and psychologists to respond to the children’s needs. Every month they reach some 3,000 children and their families, offering support and counselling after violent incidents.
The counselling sessions end every month with a festival and beach party organized by UNICEF and its partners, where thousands of children are given the chance to play and interact with each other away from the conflict.
“These festivals are important because they are about protecting childhood,” UNICEF Special Representative for Gaza and the West Bank Dan Rohrmann said. “It’s an opportunity for children to be children, which is rare here in Gaza, because they live in an environment of extraordinary fear and violence and insecurity.”