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NGO: 24m children living in conflict need mental health support

Palestinian children play outside of makeshift homes in Gaza Strip on December 14 2016 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian children play outside of makeshift homes in Gaza Strip on 14 December 2016 [Mustafa Hassona / Anadolu Agency]

Some 24 million children living in conflict zones will require mental health support, Save the Children warned in a report released today.

The charity said: “142 million children live in conflict zones with more than 1,000 battle-related deaths in a year. It is thought that nearly one fifth of people living in and displaced by conflict will need mental health support – with an additional 5% likely to experience a severe mental health disorder.”

As a result, children may suffer a range of mental health and psychosocial problems, Save the Children warned, which may lead to “aggression and withdrawal in their behaviour with peers and family members”.

It is not simply the memories of events which the children have suffered, or loss of loved ones which affect their mental health, the charity said, but the delay in diagnosing and treating mental health issues can have adverse effects on their health and wellbeing.

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“When children experience strong, frequent or prolonged adversity without adequate caregiver support this can have serious and enduring negative consequences on cognitive development and emotional regulation, potentially resulting in life-long impact on a child’s mental and physical health,” the report said.

“Boys and girls in conflicts see their family and friends die and their homes and schools bombed. They are denied necessities and can be separated from those that care for them. If they experience mental health issues and distress, this is a completely normal reaction to extreme, abnormal circumstances,” Save the Children Global Campaigns, Advocacy and Communications Director, Kitty Arie, said.

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