Forgotten victims of Gaza – the young survivors
By: Yara al-Wazir
A lot is said about the 373 children who died in the unrest in Gaza over the past three weeks, but very little is discussed about the survivors. Young people under the age of 14 make up approximately 43 percent of the population in Gaza, meaning that hundreds of thousands have been left traumatized by this war, as well as the numerous wars before it.
The outlook for the upcoming generation of young people in Gaza is daunting: a generation that will grow up to the sore site of broken infrastructure, as well as demolished religious, educational, and health institutions. Many of these children will grow up as orphans, and are unlikely to experience any other city but Gaza, if the siege continues. The plight of children is what the government and international community must focus on to move forward.
Two options: be displaced or distraught
Being part of a community or network of people who experience the death of loved ones is difficult; one can only imagine the difficulty of experiencing such massacres.
Young people in Gaza must not see another traumatizing war in their lifetime – their lives have already flashed before their eyes too often
The surviving members of the youth population in Gaza face two possible fates: they are either displaced, or distraught. Both require intense rehabilitation in order to peacefully reintegrate young people into society. Their traumas must be dealt with in a way that encourages peace, and discourages reckless hate-driven behaviour to ensure the safety of the region.
Israel realises that its greatest enemies are not militants, rather the civilian’s who whiteness the atrocities and are given a reason to be angry. Militants have a goal, whereas a generation of angry people have emotion, and that is the weapon that is required to peacefully mobilise the masses, and that is precisely why young people were specifically targeted in this war.
Education was once a Palestinian’s only weapon
Many Palestinians consider education to be the only thing that Israel cannot steal from them. Sadly, with the attack of over 149 educational institutions, including 141 schools, seven U.N. schools and the Islamic University of Gaza, a university with a student population of 20,000, the education of the upcoming generation is threatened.
When Palestinians are forcibly evicted from their homes, when settlers move in, or when the Israeli army shells a house, everything that is materialistic is lost. The educational toll of this latest war is one of the greatest, and is not similar to anything Israel has had the audacity to do in the past.
Sadly, the destruction is not something that can be solved with money and by simply using aid to rebuild the institutions due to the tight Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza. All items require approval before they are allowed into the city. The entry of construction materials into the city is restricted due to Israel’s belief that they are used to build underground tunnels.
Education must be at the forefront of the future of Gaza. It has always been, and will continue to be the strongest weapon young Palestinians can have.
Life after death, and life after war
I believe there is no doubt that children and young people were targeted in this latest war. Every child, including the four young boys who were playing football on the beach and were killed by a drone strike, as well as the 369 others with similar heart-breaking stories, was a target, and not collateral damage.
We must not let their lives be lost in vain, rather honor them by ensuring that the young survivors of this war are given the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest.
This includes access to adequate healthcare, especially access to mental health facilities. Adequate infrastructure for education must be offered, including extra-curricular programs that build social skills must be offered. And finally, access to clean water and electricity must be ensured. In simple words, Gaza must be given the opportunity to exist to its full potential and be given the chance to attempt to achieve the U.N.’s millennium development goals. Most importantly however, young people in Gaza must not see another traumatizing war in their lifetime – their lives have already flashed before their eyes too often.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir