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THOUSANDS of traumatised children in Gaza will be given vital psychological support in a new project run by global children’s charity Plan UK.
Six safe spaces are being created in eastern Gaza, where children, many of whom have been living in shelters, will receive specialist support and protection.
The project, in partnership with War Child Holland, will benefit nearly 5,000 children. It will also have a focus on helping girls, whose specific needs are often ignored in emergencies.
Jamal Alrozzi, who works on the project in Gaza as a programme officer for War Child Holland, says children there have been severely affected by the conflict.
“More than 50 days of heavy fighting, bombing, being locked up inside without electricity and barely any water, combined with a lot of insecurity, is not healthy for anybody - especially children,” he says.
“The children need to release their tension. They are angry, nervous and scared. They live with constant anxiety and no longer see how life is worth anything,” he adds.
Jamal says that the sessions run by Plan UK and War Child Holland, with the help of local partner organisations, teach children how to cope and protect themselves psychologically.
“During our activities, they start to realise it is okay to be scared, that it is something natural. Little by little they start to feel a bit better.
“It feels safe for them to talk about this and share their emotions. That is very much needed when growing up in such uncertainty and where life is all about war,” he says.
Jamal adds: “It is tough but it feels good to transform all the sadness and anger into something positive and productive.”
Hundreds of parents and care-givers will receive psychological support and help in teaching their children how to cope as part of the project.
Information about how to protect children will also be provided to the wider community.
“Children in conflict are often traumatised after seeing family members killed, getting injured and losing their homes,” says Plan UK’s Chief Executive Tanya Barron.
“Adults are often too shocked to provide children with the support they need, leaving them even more vulnerable.
“Our own research has shown that girls’ needs in particular are often invisible in emergencies – which is why this programme is important in ensuring this is addressed,” says Ms Barron.
The project has been launched after funding was released from the Department for International Development’s Rapid Response Facility (RRF).
For more information on Plan’s work or to make a donation call 0800 526 848 or visit www.plan-uk.org