The fighting that has been going on in Gaza for more than a month now has left many of the tiny territory’s children suffering from psychological trauma. To help children and their families, UNRWA counselors are providing psychological first aid, orientation and advice to parents, and individual counseling to those that suffer from psychological distress. Counselors also engage in psychosocial activities with children, which include playing, relaxation and meditation exercises, drawing and storytelling.
Bassema Ghanem is one of UNRWA counselors working to help the displaced children. She says: “Our main goal is to provide them with a sense of safety and security so that they feel protected”, which is a challenging undertaking given the attacks on UNRWA schools. Even small children know there is nowhere safe to go in the entire Gaza Strip, and nobody can leave. “As counselors, we have noticed serious behavioral changes in children, such as aggression, anger, nervousness and restlessness. Children cannot sleep or fall asleep only to wake up screaming in the middle of the night, clinging to their parents.” Bassema explains that drawing has a particularly positive effect on children. “I noticed that many of the children tend to draw houses, trees and flowers, reflecting their hope to return to a home and to have a future”, she says.
Since the beginning of the crisis, UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme has served over 91,000 parents and engaged over 100,000 children in recreational activities. UNRWA partner organizations, including the Sharek Youth Forum, provided further support to over 14,000 adults and almost 80,000 children.