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Gaza conflict Q&A: Impact on children

By James Addis
Dec 12, 2012
©2012 Sameeha Elwan/World Vision
A girl in Gaza returns to a damaged school after the recent round of violence and attacks.

After eight days of conflict, a cease-fire was declared on November 21 between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic organization that controls Gaza. During the escalation of violence, more than 165 Palestinians and six Israelis died.

How were children affected by the conflict?
World Vision and United Nations assessments in the region indicate children in Gaza are suffering severe psychological distress following the outburst of missile strikes and bombing raids. Symptoms include bed-wetting, flashbacks, nightmares, fear of going out in public, fear of being alone, and withdrawal.

Are there any World Vision sponsored children in Gaza?
Yes. There are about 7,000 children registered in World Vision child sponsorship programs in Gaza. The programs aim to improve educational opportunities for children and the economic prospects of their families. World Vision has worked in the Gaza Strip since 2001.

Why doesn’t World Vision do similar work in Israel?
World Vision works where there are the highest levels of poverty. Our work in the region reflects economic circumstances, not a political or national bias. The per capita GDP of Israel is $31,005; in Gaza and the West Bank it is only $2,900.

Children in Gaza are especially vulnerable because of high population density, poor health services, and scarce electricity and water—conditions that existed before the outbreak of recent hostilities. Meanwhile, World Vision continues to work alongside Israeli organizations committed to promoting peace and justice in the Holy Land.

Have sponsored children been affected by the latest violence?
Yes. Registered children in sponsorship programs in North Gaza were moved to schools that were designated as shelters by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after warnings to leave the area were received from Israeli forces.

One sponsored child, a teenage boy from the town of Rafah, was killed by Israeli sniper fire while final negotiations for a cease-fire were taking place. At least four sponsored children have lost loved ones due to airstrikes. Several sponsored children and some World Vision staff members have had their homes damaged or destroyed.

What will World Vision do to assist children to recover?
World Vision has established 13 Child-Friendly Spaces in hard-hit areas, serving approximately 6,500 children. The spaces provide a safe environment where children can participate in games, arts and crafts, and informal education while also receiving counseling to recover from emotional scars.

Children are also given hygiene supplies to reduce the pressure on limited family finances. About 150 mothers will be trained in “psycho-social first aid” to bring comfort to their own children and assist other mothers in the care of their children. In addition, 300 training events will be held to better equip 1,500 parents with the skills needed to assist in their children's recovery.

What else is World Vision doing?
World Vision’s relief response has included the distribution of food parcels to 1,500 families. World Vision assessments in North Gaza revealed numerous families had seen their greenhouses and crops destroyed in the recent conflict. In the near future, the organization will seek to restore livelihoods.

How does continuing conflict hurt children?
The ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict means Palestinian and Israeli children are growing up in an atmosphere of perpetual tension, fear, and violence. In this context, the Palestinian children World Vision serves face a lack of opportunities and a diminished sense of hope.

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