[News] LEBANON: Children strive to overcome trauma of war

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Aug 28 17:31:51 EDT 2006

LEBANON: Children strive to overcome trauma of war


[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Children in Tyre suffer trauma from the ordeal of living through war.

TYRE, 28 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - The United Nations children's fund 
(UNICEF), together with other NGOs, is setting up children's activity 
centres in Nabatiyeh, 80km south of the capital, and in the port city 
of Tyre, 90km south of Beirut,to recreate a semblance of normalcy for 
children in Lebanon. Teams of travelling entertainers will be sent 
out to villages around the towns to organise similar activities.

More than a third of the Lebanese killed in the 34-day conflict with 
Israel were children, according to UNICEF. "The degree to which 
children have been affected varies from one child to another," said 
Ola Attia, a Beirut-based clinical psychiatrist, who does voluntary 
work with local NGO Samidoun in the south. "The closer they have 
experienced the shock and the more destruction they have witnessed, 
the stronger the reaction tends to be."

Among the common reactions she and others working with children have 
observed are disturbed sleeping patterns and loss of appetite.

"These are natural reactions to an unnatural situation," said Attia. 
"We are asking parents to restore a sense of confidence in their 
children, so that such reactions begin to subside naturally."

"The aim [of the project] is to provide children with a means to 
break from what they've been through," said Simon Ingram, UNICEF 
spokesman in Beirut, adding that this project aimed to reach 45,000 children.

By holding such activities, it becomes easier to identify those 
children who have suffered genuine trauma, Ingram said. "The period 
between now and the resumption of school is crucial to enable 
children to recapture something they can remember from their pre-war 

Israel launched its military offensive in response to the capture of 
two of its soldiers by Hezbollah on 12 July. A United 
Nations-brokered ceasefire brought the conflict to an end on 14 
August, after 1,183 Lebanese and 158 Israelis had been killed, 
according to their respective governments.

Fear in the south

Sitting on the balcony of her family home on the outskirts of Tyre, 
12-year-old Aliki recounts the Israeli bombardments. "I was very 
frightened," she said. "I remember the planes flying above our house 
all day and all night."

South Lebanon, from where Hezbollah fired rockets into northern 
Israel, bore the brunt of Israel's attacks.

"Children coming from Marwahin [a southern village near the Israeli 
border] have been among the most traumatised by the war," said Attia. 
On 15 July, Israeli planes bombed a civilian convoy fleeing Marwahin 
and killed 18 people. About half of the passengers were said to be 
minors. Israel said its target was terrorists and that its military 
had no intention of killing civilians.

Some children appear less affected by the bombings. "I was not 
scared," said Emilia, 8. "Well, only a little."

Her mother, who preferred not to be named, said that in the first 12 
days of the war, which the family spent in their home in Tyre, she 
tried as hard as she could to retain a semblance of confidence so as 
to not create further distress for her children. "The children were 
very good," she said. "Most days, they did not panic."

However, having fled to Beirut in the middle of the conflict and 
returned home after the ceasefire, Emilia knows there are still 
planes in the sky. "She cannot sleep some nights," her mother said. 
"And most of the time, she won't go to the bathroom alone. She will 
ask me to go with her."

Attia says despite these symptoms, children are highly resilient. 
"Children may have emerged with terrible shock, but they can also 
overcome this shock with great ease if early intervention takes 
place," she said. "In most cases, all we have to do is trigger 
children's inherent ability to cope rather than take any direct steps."


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