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Exclusive – Fighting in Libya Leaves Psychological Scars on its Children

Exclusive – Fighting in Libya Leaves Psychological Scars on its Children

Wednesday, 23 January, 2019 - 09:30
Displaced Libyan children look out of window at a school where they are taking shelter in Bani Walid, in May 2016. (AFP)
Cairo – Jamal Jawhar
A few days ago children from the Qasr bin Ghasir region, just south of the Libyan capital Tripoli, were forced to skip school due to the re-eruption of clashes between militias. The fighting has left its impact on all aspects of life, forcing the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, to double its efforts to assist those affected by the unrest.

The children in Tripoli are seen as victims of the armed clashes that erupt in Tripoli from time to time. The result is the suspension of classes and some schools are even turned into shelters for people who have been displaced by the violence.

One Tripoli local said that children have been “most harmed by the wars in the capital.” He explained that the militias occupy schools during the fighting, turning them into military command centers.

For its part, UNICEF said that it is providing aid to 1,251 children affected by the recent fighting in the capital. It has been helping them overcome the scars of displacement and suspension of schools. Moreover, it said that the Bayti center is also providing psychological and social support for the children affected by conflict. So far, 716 girls and 535 boys have benefited from this assistance.

Head of Libya's National Committee for Human Rights Ahmed Hamza said: “The violence and armed clashes in the country are having a catastrophic effect on children.”

Everybody is aware of the dangerous effect violence has on children living in an environment that is witnessing constant unrest, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The effect of conflict also extends to children who become displaced along with their families inside Libya. This consequently leads to their deprivation of an education, security and a dignified life.”

A Tripoli resident noted that the violence in the city has impacted children’s games, in that they now use metal rods or plastic pieces to use as pretend guns, while imitating militia fighters.

UNICEF has warned in September that half a million children in Tripoli are exposed to direct danger from fighting, while 2.6 million throughout Libya are in need of aid.

UNICEF director for the Middle East and North Africa region Geert Cappelaere warned that an even greater number of children face several rights violations. He noted that more children are being recruited to fight, revealing that at least one child soldier has been killed.

Terrorist groups in the eastern city of Derna had previously used children in their fighting, even deploying them to the frontlines. Video circulated on local media has shown minors brandishing weapons after they have been taken away from their families and forced to join armed groups.

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