[balkans] UNICEF study
- ------- 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
"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
REAL CONSEQUENCES WILL BE KNOWN LATER
"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.''
THERE IS NO WAY TO PEACE! PEACE IS THE WAY!!!