Violence, isolation and poverty have created difficult conditions in Palestine and Lebanon.
In Gaza, there are children under the age of 10 who have already survived three wars. Syrian refugees in Lebanon have left everything behind to flee unimaginable horrors. Many communities also face high unemployment, poor living conditions, inequality and politically volatile environments. These experiences can have significant effects on refugee mental health in Palestine and Lebanon.
Children caught in the crossfire are especially vulnerable to suffering psychological effects from their circumstances. The earliest years of life are the most critical for development, and the traumas some children experience have a resounding impact on how they grow into adults. There are also few spaces for children in Palestine and Lebanon to experience a normal childhood – to kick a football, play in a park or sing songs with their friends.
There are many ways Anera works to improve refugee mental health, from engaging youth in physical activity to giving them creative outlets.
Sports and exercise, as well as music and the arts, offer ways for youth to express themselves and vent frustrations. Anera’s develops sports programs and facilities in Palestine and Lebanon to give youth an outlet for the traumas they’ve experienced. For young people who have been out of school for years – like the thousands of refugee youth in Lebanon – getting back in the classroom can help create a sense of purpose in the midst of extreme hardship.
Likewise, children can relieve trauma and stress through musical and artistic expression. Anera organizes creative activities in Palestine and Lebanon to offer an artistic release of tensions that can build up under difficult living conditions. Expressive arts are a key part of Anera’s early childhood development program. Often in the wake of tragedies, like the 2014 war in Gaza, Anera arranges creative activities for preschoolers to help them cope and recover.
And when medical help is needed, Anera can step in to provide donated psychiatric medications. The challenges of living as a refugee or under occupation can have profound psychological effects. Sometimes, a little medicine can make a big difference. Every year, Anera ships donated medicines to battle illnesses like depression and anxiety.
Helping Gaza Children Cope with Trauma
In the past five years, Gaza has experienced three wars. The bombs have stopped falling, but the process of healing wounds is ongoing.