The conflict in Gaza, which occurred between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, took a great economic, social and psychological toll on children and families. Many witnessed the deaths of caregivers, siblings and friends. All border crossings were virtually sealed; children and their families had no refuge from the violence. Children accounted for a third of the dead and wounded due to the hostilities; 431 children were killed and 1,872 children were injured.

Nada, aged 12, fl ies a kite in Gaza. (UNRWA/Shareef Sarhan).Some wounds from the conflict are not visible. Sarah, 12, is receiving help from the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution. “Before the invasion, we had a happy life, we used to have a garden, a very nice garden. Me and my brothers and sister used to play in it, but after the war, this garden is gone,” says Sarah. “It disappeared with everything that used to be in it. It was replaced with destruction. Now, our life has turned into hell and is full of sadness.”

To help children who experienced the traumas of conflict, the UN and the EU worked with local psychosocial teams to provide children and their families with counseling to enable them to manage stress while making parents and other caregivers better equipped to help their children. Counseling, along with the chance to play with her friends, is helping Sarah to come to terms with her loss. “I started to attend and found that all my friends are here. My life changed and is better than before. My friends shared my grief” she says.