Thursday, January 15, 2009

Gaza - the innocent children

By Heather Sharp
BBC News, Jerusalem

The pictures keep coming. The blood-spattered young faces, the glazed eyes, the limp small bodies.

The latest figures from Palestinian health officials say 205 children are among some 600 people who have died in the Gaza war. In the chaos, there are no statistics for how many are among the at least 2,900 injured.

As medics work flat out to save as many young lives as they can, child psychiatrists in both Gaza and southern Israel fear some children will never recover from the psychological damage done as the bombs, shells and rockets fall.

Dr Iyad Sarraj, director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, says "so many people" are telephoning his workers - although the organisation's headquarters lies abandoned with shattered windows and broken furniture after it was damaged in an Israeli air strike.

"It's really terrible for children here now," he says. "I have been through so many of these kinds of things and this is the worst."

Long-term impact

He talks of a boy he treated five years ago. Grappling in the dark after his house was hit in an air strike on a Hamas militant next door, he felt something wet.

"He realised it was the flesh of his sister who was blown into pieces. He was in such a state. He couldn't eat or smell meat for three years after that. I am sure he will suffer some kind of long-term psychological impact," Dr Sarraj says.
"This sort of thing must be happening right now as we speak."

He can barely leave his home for fear of the fighting, and has been unable to visit the hospitals where he has watched television pictures of traumatised, badly injured children arriving.

"These children need help more than anyone. They look frightened, horrified, bewildered. They need a lot of attention but they can't receive it because their families are so terrified," he says.

Continue reading: Report by BBC

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