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[balkans] UNICEF study

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    ... Subject: UNICEF study Date: Sun, 5 Sep 1999 17:36:25 +0200 FEATURE - Yugoslav children traumatised by war, fear future 10:04 p.m. Sep 04, 1999 Eastern By
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 6, 1999
      ------- Original Message --------
      Subject: UNICEF study
      Date: Sun, 5 Sep 1999 17:36:25 +0200

      FEATURE - Yugoslav children traumatised by war, fear future 10:04 p.m.
      Sep 04, 1999 Eastern

      By Ljiljana Cvekic

      BELGRADE, Sept 5 (Reuters) - For nine-year-old Igor, war is a time when
      people sleep in bomb shelters, are afraid, and
      listen to the news all the time. Peace is when he can watch television
      and sleep in pyjamas in his own bed.

      Stefan, 11, said nearly three months of NATO bombing had taught him
      never to relax, because anything can happen. "And I've learned to be

      For 11-year-old Aleksandar, "civilians are ordinary people who work in
      the army and police but dress as ordinary people."

      According to a study prepared by the United Nations Children's Fund
      (UNICEF), Yugoslav children have been severely traumatised by the death and
      destruction caused by the bombs, the sounds of air raid sirens, planes and
      explosions, and the disruption caused by nights spent in air raid shelters.

      It showed the air strikes created a high degree of fear, confusion,
      depression, despair and apathy among both children and parents, as well as a
      deep-rooted fear of the future.

      "The future is a lack of fuel and electricity," said five-year-old
      Nevena, while many other children said they did not even want to think
      of the future.

      The research was carried out by psychologists during the 11-week air
      war, which ended on June 10, in the Yugoslav capital Belgrade and
      northern Serbian town of Subotica. At the same time UNICEF organised
      teams of psychologists who worked with children in shelters in several
      Serbian towns.

      "We wanted to give the opportunity to Serbian children to express their
      opinions and intimate experiences, to describe freely their feelings,
      fears, hopes, and sorrows related to the war," said project leader Zarko

      They were also encouraged to do drawings representing their deepest
      feelings. Their works were filled with weeping faces,
      cemeteries, people with knives and pistols, falling bombs and destroyed

      Almost half the children questioned said they hated going to the
      shelters, because they were dirty and smelled bad and they feared they
      would collapse and bury them.

      "I was always crying in the shelter because I was afraid," five-year-old
      Ivana said.


      "The real consequences of the air strikes on the mental health of
      children will show up in a few years' time. Even before they happened we
      had a high level of stress and trauma related to war and crisis," said
      UNICEF's Belgrade officer Svetlana Marojevic.

      Most of the children understandably could not grasp the complex
      political background to the war, sparked by Yugoslav President Slobodan
      Milosevic's refusal to agree to an autonomy deal for Serbia's southern
      province Kosovo, which has a 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority.

      Asked why NATO attacked Yugoslavia, eight-year-old Katarina said:
      "Because Milosevic did not sign something." Her friend Suzana replied:
      "Presidents got into a fight, because Albania wants our Kosovo.''

      Zorica, 10, said: ``People fight because they have some interests.
      Politicians are not good people at all because they always want more. If
      it would be up to the people to decide, everything would be peaceful.''

      During the war children learned some new expressions which kept cropping up
      in news reports and conversations, such as ``civilian'' and
      ``victim,'' and interpreted them in their own ways.

      ``A victim is when my father cannot go to work and when we children
      cannot go to school,'' said Branko, 9, said, while seven-year-old Tamara
      believed ``victims are people who don't work.''

      Filip, five, said: ``Civilians are people who go to cellars, and when
      there is no bombing they go home, eat and sleep,'' while
      Nikola believed that ``civilians are the targets of the attacks.''

      Six-year-old Marko, showing a degree of scepticism way beyond his years,
      said in response to a question: ``A military secret is when people die and
      the news says there were no victims.''

      Marija, seven, saw peace as ``when we can go with friends to McDonalds and
      the zoo,'' while for Srdjan, six: ``Peace
      is when we play, walk, drive a car, when flowers grow and nothing is
      dirty, and when I'm not afraid of anything.''

      For 12-year-old Sima, peace was simply ``what we had before and we don't
      have any more.''

      More than half of the children said they never talked with anyone about
      their fears. ``When I'm afraid I run away, but since I don't have
      anywhere to, I go under the blanket, into my personal shelter, and
      wait,'' seven-year-old Aleksandar said.

      The emotional stability of parents emerged as a crucial factor for
      feelings of security among children, with as many as 80 percent saying
      their parents were able to protect them.

      In contrast, some 65 percent of parents said they had no confidence in
      their ability to deal with the war-related stresses and problems, though
      single mothers appeared to be more confident than those in two-parent

      An interesting finding was that less well-educated parents feared the
      psychological consequences of the war on their children much more than
      better-educated ones, and worked harder to compensate by trying to
      create a feeling of normality with regular activities.

      But for many children, like five-year-old Dara, calming their fears was
      always going to be an uphill battle.

      The war, she explained, was ``when we think they are throwing chocolates and
      toys out of planes and then we see they are bombs, and when those hit the
      zoo and all the animals come out and eat us.''

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