Children in Palestine
The situation for a child on the West Bank in Palestine is hard to imagine. Children witness explosions, the shelling of houses, waves of arrests, the constant presence of militia and civil violence and the horrific injury or killing of friends and family members. They are often subject to curfews and afraid just to play in the street and be children. They may know friends who are becoming increasingly militant themselves and are being sucked into conflict around them. In conflict situations little time and support is available for children to mourn their losses or to gain an understanding of the situation. Children are too often forced to stay in isolation, although the most determining factor contributing to a child’s recovery is the opportunity for expression, attachment and trust that comes from a stable, caring and nurturing relationship with adults. The effects of the various traumas of armed conflict on children can still be seen as generations grow up and pass these negative effects on the next generation.
A study conducted by SOS Children found that a high percentage of children in Palestine show highly pronounced symptoms of psychological strain, and that around 60% of these children required urgent psychological help. SOS Children adopted an innovative approach, running a mobile psychological support centre in the West Bank since March 2003. The therapy centre provides children in different locations with psychotherapeutic and medical support serving around 2,500 children a year. It offers house visits, psychological tests and support, play and speech therapy and physiotherapy. The centre will continue to provide its services in towns, where there is a lack of adequate support for traumatised children.
Background: SOS Children has been working in Palestine since 1966. In 1973, the SOS Children's Village Bethlehem was officially opened and the first 30 orphans were able to move into their new homes. The SOS Children site in Bethlehem is situated in the immediate vicinity of the Good Shepherd's Field. It consists of 10 family houses, a Village Director's house, a guest house and a large Community House with offices, a recreation room, a laundry, an infirmary, a workshop for repairs and a Village shop.
In 1997, the SOS site was extended and construction works of the SOS Youth Centre were begun. After some renovation works had been done, a Primary School was accommodated in some vacant rooms. The school was opened with just one class, but expanded to three in 1999/2000.