By Sara Ettallab
By Sara Ettallab
Agadir – In disaster conditions, people are exposed to the worst kinds of shock and pressure, which leave marks on most aspects of life.
It is not a coincidence that children are the most affected portion of the population when exposed to wartime conditions. Psychologists and education experts explain that since disaster conditions are difficult for adults to handle, they are doubly difficult for children to handle. These conditions shake a child’s confidence in themselves and others.
When a child is faced with life-threatening danger, it affects his behavior and temperament and leads to many reactions at the psychological and social level. He becomes victim to extreme fear, nightmares, depression, and other disorders. However, it is also possible for a child to become emotionally stronger and more aware of the situation to the point that when you talk to him you feel that you are speaking with an adult.
Children who are abused in war, either directly through the bombing of their homes or the arrests and killing of their relatives, or indirectly by witnessing the violence of the war through television, often tend to be silent as they analyze things beyond their mental abilities and sometimes more patient and hopeful as they try to understand the world. We all remember the picture of little five-year-old Imrane in the Syrian war that sparked international sympathy, but we did not pay attention to the way the child’s reaction stirred the feelings of many people.
If the picture were only of a child crying, it wouldn’t have impacted us the way it did; crying is a natural reaction for children in difficult circumstances. But what we saw in the picture was a child wiping blood from his face without crying, and this is what makes the image so poignant.
I remember a day when I was working on a report about the living conditions of Syrians in Morocco. I asked a woman, who was with her A six-year-old boy, to take me to her house. She asked for a little money in return for doing so but the child refused and told me, “You journalists are all the same, you come and take pictures and comments without changing anything. Who can believe you? …You are all liars,” as he started to cry. I did not expect these reactions from the mother or the son. I expected the mother to say what her child said and for the child to ask what his mother asked. This is one example of a child experiencing intellectual growth due to the pressure he experienced, thus thinking and behaving “above” his age.
Other children find themselves suffering from loss of appetite, feelings of instability, sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, sadness, lack of initiative, and memory. It is clear from these symptoms that children living in wartime conditions are more harshly affected by the violence of a powerful state oppressing people and seizing wealth despite international law, human rights charters, and war crimes tribunals, which insist that these governments should not impose power by violence.
Mohammed Elhabib, an educational inspector and children’s issues researcher, says, “children who are going through difficult circumstances or painful events affecting their intellectual development need for the psychologists who deal with them to take into consideration the uniqueness of this type of child. In this case, the child’s mental abilities have advanced due to living in conditions beyond their age. In other cases when a child lacks psychological comfort, the child’s mental state declines and he loses the capacity he has acquired; a 10-year-old becomes like 5 or 7-year-old because of these tragic events.”
Often, children’s mental states worsen in wartime circumstances because of a lack of awareness on the part of their families. The children express their suffering in ways that annoy adults who do not have sufficient knowledge about childhood trauma. Instead, children should be treated in a way that makes them feel secure and stable in the unstable conditions surrounding them, and we must build psychological support programs that better help them cope.
Edited by Daniel Shaffer