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Traumatised and Afraid - 300,000 Children Who Want to Go Home




"I don't want to die. I want to go to school," says Jamal, a four-year-old Lebanese boy scarred by the Israeli bombing of his country. Home for Jamal is now a "displacement centre" in the southern town of Jezzine, where his family fled in fear for their lives.

"We've had our picnic, and we want to go home now," says another child,staying in a makeshift refugee camp in the Sanayeh public gardens in Beirut. "We are bored and afraid and we want to go home," says another.

These are the voices of the dispossessed of Lebanon, the hundreds of thousands of children whose world was changed forever in the seconds that followed the explosion of a bomb. "Mummy, what is a massacre?" another child asks.

About 300,000 Lebanese children have been displaced by Israel's three-week war against Hizbollah - a third of the number of people who have abandoned their homes. In many cases they were ordered out by Israeli army leaflets. They are living in open-air camps, like the one in the Beirut park, or in schools, where many sought refuge. Many children have been housed with host families - in the port of Sidon, 48km (30 miles) south of the capital, 40 per cent of the 22,700 children in temporary accommodation are doing so. The rest are in displacement centres.

Ribka Amsale, an aid worker with Save the Children, visited a school in Sidon yesterday. Children were playing football as their mothers cheered them on. The children seemed cheerful enough, but the stress and trauma are already etched in their psyches.

Traumatised and Afraid - 300,000 Children Who Want to Go Home
Jacqueline Keeler
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