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Friday, March 24, 2017
Caritas asks: Why do Gaza's children buy toy guns?
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¬†In spite of all the fighting, the ongoing economic crisis and unimaginable tension in the Gaza Strip, children continue to buy toys. Under normal circumstances, children ask their parents for toys like small cars, dolls, building blocks like Lego and sometimes plastic guns. But today a new and very disturbing phenomenon is increasing in Gaza: The buying of plastic guns by children less than 13 years of age. Abu Mohamed, a toy merchant in the main market in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, laments the current situation and the hardship he faces to provide for his family of 11 members. "I cannot provide for my family and I am working seven days a week from morning till night, but this is not for me the most disturbing issue. What disturbs me more is the long term affect that the current situation of violence is having on all of our children. I have noticed a frightening new trend in Gaza: Children who buy toys from me want only plastic guns or helicopters They ask their parents to buy only toys like this." Amr is an example of this trend. After buying a plastic gun from Abu Mohamed, he said: "I like holding these guns more than other toys." The Palestinian people have been suffering for many decades and year after year the circumstances in the Gaza Strip have worsened. Such a situation psychologically affects people, especially children. Ms. Maha Al-Emari, a psychologist who works with Caritas Jerusalem in Gaza, explains: "If we put a selection of different toys in front of a Palestinian boy, he will choose a gun. Most of the Palestinian youngsters are acting out violently. For sure, what makes them gravitate towards these violent games is the surrounding situation here in Gaza." She adds: "When we compare our situation to other countries, we notice that young children generally speaking do not possess specific knowledge about bullets. But in Gaza, they know as if they are experts in weaponry and in war related issues. These children do not realize it, but they are victims of violence." Caritas Jerusalem ≠ Our response to this issue To help address the growing upswing in violence and the negative affect it is having on children, Caritas Jerusalem has started a new pilot project in Gaza called: "An Educational Program for Child Mental and Physical Health." Through our Caritas Gaza Medical Center, we are providing a room available for children to play with educational toys and more age appropriate games to help them escape the daily violent atmosphere. Through equipping our center in this way, we are making a safe place where children in Gaza can come and play. We are also making time available for children with psychological problems to come and speak with a trained psychologist. In 2007, we are organizing 24 fun days for children in six Gaza schools to give them opportunities to see plays and take part in safe and entertaining games to help break them out of the daily routine of violence. In partnership with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education, we are also working with several schools in the Gaza Strip to organize lectures for teachers and parents to build their capacity about the issue of children engaging in aggressive games and activities which are not conducive to building their psychological health. Through these actions, we hope to give parents and teachers skills to help them address the issue of violence among children and also give them tools to help at risk children in need of counseling or further medical or psychological attention. The psychologist Ms. Al-Emari concludes saying: "This project is very important at this present time, because it helps decrease the level of daily nteraction with violence among children. In this project, we help children to focus on different and more positive activities away from war and violence to help bring them out of this negative cycle." Source: Caritas
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