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LEBANON: Children traumatised by attacks


BEIRUT, 23 Jul 2006 (IRIN) - Inaam Haidar and her twin children, Hadi and Hiba, aged eight, were trapped in a village south of Beirut for 10 days after the Israeli attacks on Lebanon started on 12 July.

A three year-old displaced girl crying
in a government school in Beirut.


They were spending their summer holiday at their grandmother's house in the mountains, when Israeli planes dropped bombs on the area, isolating the village.

"We were living in fear as the bombs just whistled over our house and exploded nearby," says Haidar. "The Israeli planes kept going over the town and dropping bombs, and my children kept crying all the time. My mother is an old woman and she is sick."

The whole family managed to leave the village on 21 July. "We walked for a few kilometres to where a man with a car was waiting for us," explains Haidar. "He had been sent by my husband who is working in Beirut. My mother is now staying at my brother's house, away from the bombs in the mountains outside Beirut, and I came back to my house on the verge of the southern suburbs."

Haidar said the journey to Beirut was hellish. Some of the roads through the mountains had been damaged in air strikes, and they had to travel along dangerous tracks to avoid being bombed.

"I didn't cry... I was brave for mama," says Hadi, Haidar's son.

"I still cannot sleep at night, as I can hear the Israeli bombs exploding in the nearby southern suburbs, and it makes me afraid that the bombs might hit us here in our house," Haider says. "Wherever we go, the Israeli bombs follow us."

The UN's Childrens Fund, UNICEF, says around half the estimated 600,000 people displaced in Lebanon to date, are children and women.

"Out of those killed or injured, we were told that one third were children," says Soha Boustani, UNICEF Spokesperson in Beirut.

Boustani says the less critical but lasting psychological impact of this conflict on children is not being addressed either.

Asked if he sleeps at night, eight year-old Hadi replies: "A little. I panic and wake up because of the bombs coming down and exploding like this," he says, making the sound of an explosion and waving his hands in the air.

The Israeli air strikes have already taken their toll on Hadi's twin sister, Hiba. "I can still hear explosions here," she says, pointing to her head. "I have nightmares."

Haidar says both her children sob and cry out in their sleep. "When they do manage to sleep, they are afraid to keep their eyes closed because they think the planes will come back," she says.

"Trauma is UNICEF's main concern because it is not visible to the eye but it has a long term effect," UNICEF's Boustani says.

The above article comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2006

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