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UN: Gaza Conflict Will Have Long-Lasting Psychological Impact on Children

The U.N. Children's Fund says 840,000 children in Gaza are under extreme stress and are traumatized by the violent events of the past few weeks. UNICEF warns of long-lasting psychological consequences for thousands of children caught up in the Israeli- Hamas conflict in Gaza.

The United Nations reports more than one thousand Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,000 wounded since the conflict in Gaza began nearly three weeks ago.

The U.N. Children's Fund says about one third of those killed and wounded are children. UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Sigrid Kaag, says as usual children bear the brunt of the hostilities.

"It will be a long haul in our estimation to really assist children and their families to rebuild what is left of a normal life under already very challenging circumstances," she said.

Speaking from Amman, Jordan, Kaag tells journalists in Geneva the conflict is a disaster for children on all levels. She says prior to the Israeli military incursion, the stress level of children was already high. She says this has only worsened.

She says children daily are exposed to killings, home demolitions, displacements and house searches. At the same time, she says, they no longer have access to normal routines such as schooling and play.

She says the current crisis has resulted in significant damage to schools and many of those that still are intact increasingly are being used as shelters for displaced families.

She says nearly one-half million primary age school children have no access to education. They have been stripped of their protective environment.

The UNICEF official says she fears the future generation of children is at risk of becoming a lost generation.

"We do not want to assume it will create a generation of hate," said Kaage. "But it definitely - the social trauma, the impact, the loss children have suffered-be it of a sibling, be it of a parent, be it of their closest friend, be it their auntie - this is an immense, immense negative impact on anybody's life, even in the best of circumstances."

Kaag says the children, as well as their parents and caregivers, will require long-term psychological assistance on a massive scale. She says no quick fix will heal the wounds of children who have been subjected to such an excess of violence.