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UN: Palestinian Children Suffer from Stress, Depression - 2003-08-16

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA says a survey conducted in five West Bank refugee camps shows that Palestinian children are suffering from stress and depression.

UNRWA official Matthias Burchard says medical staff in West Bank refugee camps began compiling statistics for the survey some months ago, when doctors noticed a big increase in the number of parents bringing their children to health centers for help.

He says the parents reported often alarming behavior patterns in their children. Some as old as nine or 10 were wetting their beds at night, and their parents could not understand why.

"You have what is called by the doctors post-traumatic stress disorders, which come up in sleeplessness, in aggression, restlessness, depression and all different signs of stress, fear paranoia, all these things, which essentially have made life of children miserable, and require professional help," he explained.

Mr. Burchard says interviews with parents and teachers show they, too, are under considerable stress, and need help. He says the second intifada, or uprising, is having a more devastating impact on children than the first. He says this is because the current intifada is more ferocious and dangerous than the one in 1994, which he describes as more of an uprising than a war.

"The doctors clearly state their fear that the coming generation will want to destroy everything, because it will have lost everything," said Mr. Burchard. "And, therefore, there is a great need to help and to help now, and to help for some years to come. This is not a quick fix problem. This will require years of counseling and treatment."

UNRWA cares for about four million Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. Mr. Burchard estimates it needs $3.6 million to provide appropriate psychological counseling to the Palestinians, until the end of the year.