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Gaza: Over half of Palestinian children have contemplated suicide, report finds

Save the Children study finds that 80 percent of youths in besieged enclave live in emotional distress amid Israeli blockade and repeated military attacks
Palestinian children play on a trampoline by the sea in Gaza City on 4 June 2021 (AFP)

Over half of Palestinian children in the besieged Gaza Strip have had suicidal thoughts in the past year, according to a report published by Save the Children on Wednesday. 

The study, titled "Trapped", found that the well-being of children and young people living under siege in the enclave had deteriorated significantly since similar research was carried out in 2018. 

Around 55 percent of children have contemplated suicide, while three out of five children have self-harmed, Save the Children revealed.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, there have been 44 attempted suicides involving children, compared to eight in all of 2019, according to a hotline cited in the report. 

According to the study, which consulted 488 children and 168 parents and caregivers in Gaza, 80 percent of children live with emotional distress - up from 55 percent in 2018.

Traumatised by war

After Hamas won legislative elections in 2006, Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, restricting the movement of people and goods. 

Israel has launched four devastating military attacks on the enclave since then, with the most recent assault in May 2021 leaving 256 people dead - including 66 children. 

Children of Gaza left traumatised a year after Israeli bombardment
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The attacks have left young Palestinians psychologically traumatised and fearful of further violence.

“Every night before I go to bed, I stare at my ceiling and sincerely pray it won't fall on my head,” 11-year-old Nadine Abdullatifa told MEE last month on the anniversary of the attack. 

"I keep seeing the same dream over and over again about the time when my brother and I used to sleep near the door so that we would escape faster if the home was targeted."

Abdullatifa appeared in a video that went viral last year after she broke down while speaking to MEE following an Israeli air strike, which flattened her neighbour’s house. 

A report from Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor last year found that nine out of 10 children in Gaza suffered from some form of conflict-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

'Perpetual state of fear'

Save the Children found that 79 percent of caregivers had reported an increase in bedwetting among their children and young people, while 78 percent said children rarely completed tasks. 

Around 59 percent of caregivers documented an increase in youths experiencing difficulty in speech, language and communication, while 96 percent said they themselves felt unhappy and constantly anxious. 

“The children we spoke to for this report described living in a perpetual state of fear, worry, sadness and grief, waiting for the next round of violence to erupt, and feeling unable to sleep or concentrate,” said Jason Lee, director for Save the Children in the occupied Palestinian territories.

“The physical evidence of their distress – bedwetting, loss of ability to speak or to complete basic tasks – is shocking and should serve as a wakeup call to the international community.”