Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Psychological effects of War

Nerves hardwired in steel?

Any Psychological effects of War on Gaza’s children?

The report is of 2009. It must be even worse as the children in Gaza witnessed three such massive preemptive wars on Gaza since 2008.

Gaza child looking at what is left of her baby sister
‎هذا ما تبقى من أختها كي تدفن،فهل تبقى من كرامتكم شيئا كي تحيا؟؟؟‎

The Psychological effects of War on Gaza’s children

Report by Dr. Yousef Mousa
Published: 15/02/2009


Is Life returning to normal? What about the visible scars on children?

The Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) estimated that 1,314 Palestinians were killed in the 23 days of the military operation in the Gaza Strip.

This statistics were only updated until Jan. 18th 2009, but after the Israeli ceasefire, many corpses were found under the debris and the demolished houses in many areas (Zeytoun, Al Atatra, Ezzbet Abed Rabo, and Beit Hanoun).

The bombing and shelling caused extensive damage to civilian facilities throughout the Gaza Strip. Supplies of basic food and fuel, and the provision of electricity, water and sanitation services remain critical.

“Civilians in Gaza bore the brunt of the conflict, with 412 children and 100 women killed and 5, 450 people wounded. Ten of thousands of people were rendered homeless after their areas were damaged or destroyed during bombing raids.”

UN Report – New York

Palestinian Children – A Special Consideration:

Children represent more than 50% of the Palestinian society, and the most vulnerable group of this society

Children have been critically affected by the daily violence, such as bombing, destruction of their houses and other measures.

Damages to residential property, schools, health clinics and water and electricity infrastructure by Israelis are still widespread.

45.2% of death occurrence among children was caused mainly by firearm missiles by Israeli occupation.

Up to 80% of Palestinian children suffer from behavioral problems, including:

  • Increasing level of violence.
  • Sleeping problems, with feelings of fear and anxiety.
  • Changes in attachment to family and community.
  • Various emotional and cognitive problems such as inability to concentrate.
  • Decreasing hope in the future

Palestinian children who experience armed conflict carry the heavy emotional, social, and spiritual burdens associated with death, separation from and loss of parents, attack and victimization, destruction of homes and communities, economic ruin, and disruption of the normal patterns of living.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child is deeply concerned at the devastating effects that the current military engagement in Gaza is having on children, ” the 18-member body said in a statement issued in Geneva, where it is currently in session.

Hundreds of children have been killed or injured, many seriously. Many others have lost their loved ones. The continuous fighting and destruction of livelihoods and basic infrastructures, severely compromise enjoyment of human rights especially in relation to health, education and family life.

The psycho-social need in Palestine has been realized most acutely during the past eight years of conflict, occupation and violence. Military incursions, movement restrictions, targeted killing, arrests, humiliation, spread of the terror acts, economic situation and poverty have affected every individual from children to the elderly.

The impact has resulted in children: being unable to attend school; sick and injured persons have been denied hospital access while attempting to cross Erez checkpoints.

Maher Wahba, a psychologist with Muslim Aid said that one of the first tasks would be to address the psychological trauma being suffered by children who had lost family members and friends. “These children have suffered a lot, we have seen many cases, many psychological disorders… aggressive behaviour, many nightmares, dreams” he added.

Dr. Samir Gota, a professor of psychology at the Islamic University of Gaza, said to Asharq Al-Awsat that there has been a significant increase in the number of parents visiting psychological health centers in the Gaza Strip enquiring about treatments for psychological breakdowns after having recognized these symptoms in their children following the bombings which have affected the cities, towns and refugee camps of the Gaza Strip.

Psychological problems such as depression and aggression are common in children who have lived through conflict. This is not a new phenomenon in Gaza as many children have lived through other periods of violence, but this latest crisis will have added to the mental health problems faced by Gaza’s children. However, families in Gaza are already struggling with the basics of life; getting enough water, food, fuel and shelter. Hidden psychological problems are not something they are able to deal with.Hatem Shurrab said.

According to WHO, the Psychological consequences of conflict situation in Gaza are, as follows:

Distress responses expressed as:

Sense of Vulnerability
Emotional liability

Behavioral changes expressed as:

Domestic Violence
Increased health care use
Alcohol Consumption
Drug addict

Psychiatric illness expressed as:

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Major Depression

The unpredictability of the day-to-day situation further adds to the stress and anxiety felt by not having control over ones lives.

This is the current situation in Palestine but it comes with the memories of the conflicts of the past and ultimately with the loss of land and identity. Methods of coping with chronic instability tie into religious beliefs, community lifestyle and cultural traditions. One of the most dominant effects of the continued conflict is the loss of hope.

The affects on the individual, the family, and the community will be long lasting – finding ways to overcome the traumas of the past is the only way to a brighter future.

Psychosocial programs seek to limit these effects on children, prevent further harmful events, and strengthen the coping mechanisms of children, their families, and their communities.

Palestinian children experience many forms of violence from the current war, longest occupation in the world and continuous Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Those which are most likely to cause trauma among children are the death of a parent, relative or acquaintance, torture, witnessing an act of violence, separation from one or both parents for any period of time, injury, including those resulting in deformity or handicaps, engaging in violence, poverty and severe depravation, and shelling or demolition of their house.

Emotions and reactions of children are manifested in many ways including: Problems with speech, difficulty concentrating, learning difficulties, sleep related problems, bedwetting, loss of recently acquired skills, feelings of guilt, and variety of somatic complaints. Children must have safe places for healing and emotional support to be able to overcome these problems in order to continue to live normal, productive lives.

Currently Palestine has no comprehensive mental health services for children, resulting in a high level of need of such services in the community.

I have no concrete evidence of what I claim; only the anecdotes of friends and associates. Given that aid organizations and academics have yet to fully chronically the effects of the 2008-2009 war, I think anecdotal evidence will have to do for now.

Clenched Jaws and Chipped Teeth

I have heard many occurrences of jaw problems. Some residents of Gaza are clenching their teeth to the degree that it hurts to chew. I have heard many reports of jaw aches. A couple I know say each separately wake up at night because their spouse is grinding his/her teeth so loudly.

A dentist told me that he is making many night guards and repairing chipped teeth. He claims that Palestinians are giving themselves long-term tooth and jaw damage from stress. A friend started wearing a mouth guard when he runs because he can’t stop clenching his jaw. He already chipped away half a tooth.


A friend of mine in Rafah can’t sleep. His wife and daughter can’t sleep, either, he refuses to medicate. The rest of his family take pills. They can’t sleep without them. They began to take more as the battles bombs got louder.


It is not even worth cataloging the number of nightmares I’ve heard from others. Almost everyone I know tells me about a dream they’ve had recently. I’ve had many awkward and disturbing dreams, as well. I tend to have political dreams. Throughout the 2008-2009 war, I often dreamt of myself as a member of the Palestinian cabinet trying to resolve the conflict. Some of the dreams of my friends are too disturbing to recount.

Many of them involve lots of blood, dead bodies, and death. A woman tells me that she has dreams about saving her young daughter from dark, shadowy, faceless enemies. Another man dreams that he is a member of a South African private security corporation of ninjas that descends on Gaza and secretly and quietly kills all Israeli solders and politicians.

Weight Gains/Loss

Friends have visibly changed. Some people have gained significant amounts of weight. Others stopped eating, and look sickly thin and exhausted.


Many Palestinians, myself included, argue that this conflict did far more psychological damage than the all Israeli-Arab wars. The last wars are much harder psychologically than 1948 war.

Dr. Yousef Mousa
Executive Director
Union of Health Work Committess-Gaza
Tel: +970 8 2824272
Fax: +970 8 2869220
Mobile: +970 599 122211

It is no dishonor to be in a minority in the cause of liberty and virtue




June 2023

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