CAFOD supports counselling service for children of Gaza

As the dust settles on the recent fighting in Gaza, many children are still haunted by the horrors of war. CAFOD is  funding a counselling centre to help young people deal with the horrific events they have witnessed.

Any child or family member who needs support can visit the centre for on-site diagnosis, care and treatment. Qualified counsellors are on hand to respond quickly and effectively to the needs of Gaza’s deeply traumatised citizens.

Before the centre was set up, counselling staff had to travel across the Gaza strip to reach children in desperate need. With a permanent base, they can reach out to many more young people and their families.

The centre has come at a critical time.

Mohammed Alousi from Islamic Relief in Palestine says there has been a huge rise in the suffering of Gaza’s children since the latest violence. "We saw children as young as three in shock as their homes were destroyed around them," he recalls. "Most of the children of Gaza have witnessed a traumatic event, such as watching someone killed or injured, or seeing their house hit by bullets or shrapnel. “Over half of Gazans are under the age of 18, so you can imagine the scale of the problem."

Even before the conflict began, studies by Islamic Relief showed that over half of Gaza's children were suffering from nervousness, hyper-activity and sleep disturbance, brought on by the stress of living in the Gaza strip. Now the United Nations estimates that 431 children were among the 1,400 killed in the latest violence. Many more young people were injured in the attacks.

As well as dealing with emotional scars, the Gazan community is also struggling with a shattered infrastructure.

“Medical centres and schools are still severely damaged,” says Mohammed. “Building materials can’t get through due to the on-going blockade of the Gaza strip."

"People are crammed into the undamaged homes, and many more remain camped outside their destroyed houses.”

"We are in desperate need of raw materials such as cement, nails and pipes so that Gazans can begin to rebuild their lives."

CAFOD's regional manager for the Middle East, Pauline Taylor-McKeown agrees: “It is imperative that the new Israeli government lifts the blockade on Gaza and allows in essential building materials and supplies.”

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