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Sa'ada Children Suffer Severe Psychological Problems Sa'ada, Study Says
  Written By: Moneer Al-Omari (YEMEN POST STAFF)
  Article Date:
December 15
, 2008



Sa'ada children suffer severe psychological and behavioral problems resulting from the bad experiences of the four-year war in the province, according to a field study by Siyaj Organization for Childhood Protection.

The study called for action to address these post-war problems so that children can do away these bad experiences. It also warned against inattentive attitudes of governments towards such negative effects on war on children, hinting this will leave behind economic and social problems that threaten the stability and security among locals.

It further noted that it is necessary to speed up the restoration and reconstruction of schools and to initiate special rehabilitation programs in order to help an easy integration of these children into the society. 

Completed near the end of  November, the study involved 1018 children, mostly male children. Female children made up only one-third of the sample and this is justified by the fact that fewer female children join schools. In tribal societies, it is difficult to interview female children who are above 10 years of age.

According to the study, the armed conflicts have left severe psychological and behavioral disorders among Sa'ada children, together with affecting their present and future, their families, their neighbors and their education.

Field researchers found that children suffer from psychological problems including depression, anxiety, involuntary bedwetting, and great fear from the sounds of lightning or bullets being fired in wedding  ceremonies.

About 45.5 percent of respondents suffer fear from natural phenomena, especially those linked with the sounds of explosions. For them, this brings back the bad memories of war days and they link them unconsciously with the war explosions and firing.

Similarly, 21.6 percent of respondents reported cases of involuntary bedwetting and this percentage is above the normal state that should not exceed 15 percent for those who are older than three years.

It is also an important indication that children's psychological state is deteriorating and this makes it difficult for them to control their physical functions. There were also reported cases of involuntary urination while they are not asleep and at 5 percent.

Some children fell unconscious when hearing the sounds of firing and explosions even if these sounds are caused by lightening or thunder; 4.8 percent suffered unconsciousness and 3.3 percent mentioned that they rarely suffer such problems. This seems to be unnatural especially when these children belong to a tribal society where hearing the sounds of firing and bullets is very common.

There has been a slight increase in the percentage (16 percent) of children who have a wish to cry, and this is a strong pointer for the bad impact of war in children, particularly in societies that consider children's weeping to be shameful.

The results also indicate that children have acquired aggressive behaviors against others, as 35.3 percent mentioned that they have aggressive attitudes of their peer children or their relatives. Further, 21.5 percent suffer from introversion and the feelings to be alone.

Over 63 percent noted that they often have disturbing nightmares as this is a very high percentage that could affect the children's present and future. Further, 45.5 percent of respondents reported much fear from war and fear its renewal.

Under the deteriorating economic situation and high rates of poverty, 21.6 percent think seriously of leaving schools, while 66.2 percent say they still trust the future will be better, however 33.6 see no better future.


Children and international conventions

International conventions have focused on the rights of children existing in war areas and this is because children are incapable to protect themselves. The same slightly applies to women.

All conventions agree that children should be guarded against the armed conflicts and it is necessary, in the Yemeni context, to give special attention to the victims of Sa'ada children who were forced by their geographic and social circumstances to live under the armed conflicts.

Experts believe that Yemen, which ratified the child's rights convention in 1991, should abide by it, especially article no (39) which says “State Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.”

Several experts see that Ministry of Public Health and Population should design special rehabilitation programs for Sa'ada children to help their reintegration into the society.