The impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Palestinian children

by tybmmjourno

By- Ruchi Nandu

Living in war-torn areas is a reality that many people face throughout the world (Qouta & El-Sarraj, 2004). Hundreds of thousands are affected every year, including the victims of the conflicts, their relatives and friends, disaster workers and eye witnesses. Palestinians are the largest group of refugees in the world, one in three refugees worldwide is a Palestinian. It is estimated that there are about 6.5 million Palestinian refugees in the world (Ministry of Health, 2005).

Out of the 4 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza, around 53% are children. They are among the victims of the ongoing violence, not only by being killed or injured by Israeli forces or internal armed groups, but also by being psychologically affected by acts of violence hitting them or their relatives and friends. The conflict has a severe impact on children’s possibilities to live a safe and healthy life, and most of them see their right to education, health or an adequate standard of living violated on a daily basis.

In 1967, on the sixth day of war, Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.  Since then, periods of conflict of various intensities followed up. During the 90’s, the economic and political situation had improved but after a decade, since the beginning of Al-Aqsa Intifada, the situation worsened. In response to resurgence of the conflict by Palestine, Israel started imposing mobility restrictions through different security measures which are closing of borders (entry of Palestinians), curfews and sieges. All these restrictions, made it difficult for Palestinian workers who were employed in Israel to reach their workplaces, which affected the entire Palestinian economy.

The reason for which the conflict has an effect the children’s status is closing of borders (entry of Palestinians) is expected to effect children belonging to households whose father are employed in Israel. In addition, due to the closing of borders caused a drop in the household earnings. The reduction in the household income increased child labour and reduced school attendance.

In addition, due to low income, malnutrition problem is high in Palestinian territories. According to the World Bank, food consumption in the Palestinian Territories fell by more than 25 per cent per capita, and food shortages particularly of proteins, were reported. A 2007, Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics poll of Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza found that as a result of poverty about 10 percent of Palestinian children suffer permanent effects from malnutrition, including especially stunted growth.

After the conflict, children still suffer through the post traumatic stress disorder. Gaza Community Health Programs carried out a study and found that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) rate for children in Gaza was that 54% suffered from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 33.5% from moderate and 11% from mild and doubtful levels of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The psychological well-being future of Palestinian children is at risk of being compromised by on-going traumatic experiences. To avoid the risk, the support of family, friends, relatives, teachers, and spiritual leaders can be of great help to the children. In addition, governmental and NGO institutions can also help to ease the effects of the difficult living conditions and chronic trauma suffered by the Palestinian children.