Israeli-Palestinian conflict inflicting mental harm on region's children: UNICEF
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today voiced concern for the children being killed and injured in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, noting that surveys have shown that youngsters in the region were experiencing more emotional problems than a year ago.
According to the agency's office in the West Bank and Gaza, 194 children under the age of 18 have been killed, including 166 Palestinians and 27 Israelis, since the most recent Intifadah started more than a year ago. The bulk of UNICEF's emergency programme in the region has been focused on helping the children and their families to deal with stress generated by the conflict.
Speaking in Geneva, Pierre Poupard, UNICEF Special Representative in the West Bank and Gaza, reiterated the agency's call on Israel to ensure that children under 18 were not targeted in the conflict, as well as its call for the Palestinian Authority to expand measures to discourage those under 18 from participating in any violent action.
"Children are paying a heavy and disproportionate price," he said. "More must be done to ensure that all the region's children are protected both from the direct and indirect impacts of this tragic conflict."
Some of the problems faced by Palestinian children that have been documented by academic institutions and other non-governmental organizations include nightmares, bed-wetting, insomnia and irregular sleep. "Fear is also common," Mr. Poupard said. "Fear of darkness, fear of sleeping alone, leaving the house, strangers, loud noises and sudden movements."
UNICEF said it had no data on the psychological effect of the conflict on children in Israel but they were also very likely to be suffering from emotional stress caused by the fighting.