dimanche 20 août 2006

The Next Generation (By David Snyder)

Psychosocial Support is Important Part of Rebuilding

Today is the first time since the war that Marie Semaan has been back to her village of Al-Kfour. A mixed community of both Christians and Muslims near the city of Nabatiye in southern Lebanon, this village became a battleground early on in the war, forcing Marie and her family to flee. Though the bombs are no longer falling, Marie’s story provides a glimpse into the effects of the war on Lebanon’s children.

Marie and her family spent the first days of the war in Al-Kfour, sheltering from the bombs of Israeli air strikes which hit the local municipal building repeatedly.

“I was afraid when we were here, because the noise was loud and the house was shaking,” Marie said.

Finally, Marie’s father decided to move the family to Beirut, where they had rented a home so that he could get regular medical care there for a kidney condition. Unfortunately, the war soon followed, as the southern suburbs of the city where the family home was located were also targeted by Israeli attacks.

“We were here for a week during the war, then we went to Beirut,” Marie said. “We heard the bombs every night.”

Though many of her friends fled to the mountains north of Beirut, an island of relative calm and safety during the conflict, Marie’s father’s condition kept the family in Beirut. Like a typical 13-year-old girl, Marie spoke with her friends by phone nearly every day. They worried about her, as nightly images of the destruction in south Beirut filled the local TV screens.

“They were afraid, but most of them were up in the mountains,” Marie said of her friends. “So they were less affected.”

Marie’s story is typical, as she and nearly one million others were displaced by the war in Lebanon. In a conflict that killed more children than soldiers, many will bear the physical scars of this war. But many others not physically affected will bear a different kind of scar, as the sights and sounds of the war will impact them psychologically – in many ways a wound that heals more slowly.

To address the needs that exist, Caritas Lebanon is working to lend a range of psychosocial support to the children of Lebanon. As assessment teams comb the affected areas of the south to begin wide scale emergency relief and long-term rehabilitation, a major component of that effort will involve psychosocial support to children in the form of therapy sessions and drawing exercises. The goal of each is to encourage children to discuss their feelings, the first step towards healing the trauma many of them experienced during the war.

As the emergency phase of the Lebanon humanitarian effort continues, such needs are sometimes lost in the more pressing immediate work of getting food, water and shelter to those displaced by the war. But for children like Marie Semaan, the fear she felt during the war has not left her. With four brothers and sisters, Marie found herself speaking often of the war, and of her fears, especially with her younger sister. Looking back on those discussions with hindsight, Marie recalls a conversation she had with her younger sister, just nine years old, during a bombing raid in the last days of the war.

“Sometimes she was scared,” Marie recalled. “But she was telling me not to be scared – her older sister.”