Gaza’s Children Grapple with Severe Mental Health Crisis Amid Month-Long Siege and Bombardment

by Ella

A relentless month of ceaseless bombardment in densely populated areas has exacerbated the already critical mental health crisis affecting Gaza’s children, with devastating consequences. As coping mechanisms and safe spaces vanish and mental health services become inaccessible, children’s well-being hangs in the balance, warns Save the Children.


In the past month, Gaza has witnessed the tragic loss of 4,008 children, with another 1,270 children feared buried under the rubble. Additionally, 43 children have lost their lives in the occupied West Bank, and 31 children have been killed in Israel, with reports of approximately 30 children held hostage. Save the Children is deeply concerned for the physical and emotional welfare of children throughout the region, including the West Bank and Israel, as children’s mental health in Gaza teeters on the brink of collapse.


Israeli airstrikes, which have targeted thousands of civilian locations, including schools and hospitals housing families, have left children without safe havens. The ongoing violence, fear, grief, and uncertainty have inflicted profound psychological harm on children, who have nowhere to seek refuge.


The Ministry of Health in Gaza reports that 444 families have lost between two and five members to the violence in the past four weeks, including 192 families who have lost 10 or more members. This tragic loss leaves many children without the crucial support of their families, a vital coping mechanism for children grappling with trauma. Medical professionals in Gaza, including Médecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders, have noted the staggering number of children without surviving family members seeking medical care, coining a new term for them – “WCNSF” (Wounded Child No Surviving Family).


Save the Children’s mental health experts highlight the fact that the ongoing hostilities in Gaza are exposing children to extremely traumatic experiences while stripping away the resources to help them cope. There is no sense of security, no safe spaces, and no routine, with thousands forced from their homes. Caregivers, burdened by their own stress, are struggling to assist children in dealing with the emotional turmoil typical of young individuals traumatized by violence.

In the current conditions in Gaza, children exhibit various signs and symptoms of trauma, including anxiety, fear, safety concerns for themselves and their loved ones, nightmares, disturbing memories, insomnia, emotional suppression, and withdrawal from loved ones. The trauma is persistent, unrelenting, and accumulating day by day.

Yousef, a Save the Children staff member in Gaza and a father of three young children, expresses the profound challenges: “There is a lot of loss and a lot of pain. We are fearful: of what the coming hours will bring, of what tomorrow will bring. Death is everywhere. My children look into my eyes every day, they are searching for answers. I have no answers for them. It is very hard, especially for children. We try to pull ourselves together to support and protect children. The needs are huge.”

The lives of children in Gaza have long been marked by severe deprivation, recurrent cycles of violence, and restrictions on their freedom since the imposition of a land, air, and sea blockade in 2007. A report released by Save the Children in June 2022 had already revealed that children’s mental health was on the verge of collapse, with 80% of children reporting constant feelings of fear, worry, sadness, and grief. Three-quarters of children were experiencing bedwetting due to fear, and an increasing number exhibited reactive mutism.

Jason Lee, Save the Children’s Country Director for the occupied Palestinian territory, underscores the gravity of the situation: “In times of war, people usually seek refuge in safe places. There are no safe places in Gaza right now, and there is no way of reaching safety outside. With a sense of safety, the constant reassuring presence of family, some kind of routine and appropriate treatment, children can recover. But so many children have already lost family members, some have lost all, and the violence and displacement are relentless.”

He continues: “Time and time again, we’ve warned that the toll of conflict and the blockade on children’s mental health is too great. Even before this escalation, more than half of parents we spoke to reported that their children were self-harming or experiencing suicidal thoughts. We are running out of words to raise the alarm in strong enough terms or to articulate the scale of children’s suffering.”

Save the Children urgently calls for a ceasefire and implores the international community to support it without further delay. It is crucial that all parties to the conflict uphold International Humanitarian Law, as their obligation, to ensure the protection of all children in the region.


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