«We know that some children abducted by Hamas have been sexually abused. They are not among the children we are treating here, they are in another of the medical facilities that took care of the minor hostages after their release.” Omer Niv, deputy director and pediatrician of the Schneider children’s medical center, the largest pediatric hospital in Israel and the Middle East, where 19 small hostages released after 50 days of captivity in Gaza are being treated in an interview with ANSA.
«They are like ghosts. They suffer from severe depression to an extent never seen before, they are sad, they walk slowly, they don’t want to leave the room, they burst into tears if they see a stranger, they are afraid, they chew their food slowly, they fear every noise”, says Niv. Abigail, Raz, Aviv, Yuval, Emilia, Ofri and all the other children torn from their childhood have re-emerged from Gaza without points of reference to cling to: their houses have been burned, the cots are no longer there, toys and booklets swallowed from the destruction that Hamas and Jihad left behind on October 7th.
Niv does not hide the difficulties that the same teams of specialists are encountering in treating young patients, he clearly says that they are proceeding by trial and error, developing a method for each returned child: “There are no examples in the scientific literature in which small children, 2, 3, 4 years old were kidnapped, kept in claustrophobic places, in extreme hygienic conditions, separated from their parents, barely fed, tortured with false news such as the death of dad and mom even if it wasn’t true, with the story that Israel no longer exists and no one would have gone to save them. There has never been a treatment for these damages. Because nothing like this has ever happened in the history of humanity”, admits the pediatrician.
«With psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors of different specializations, sociologists, we address the children one by one. In a certain sense we feel helpless. A mother with two 3-year-old girls has been with us for a week since her release. They want to stay here: their house was set on fire in a kibbutz, their father remained hostage in Gaza, they don’t want to leave”, she explains.
«What can I say to a 3-year-old girl who saw her father remain prisoner, her mother crying because she wants her husband back. Young children are unable to tell what they feel, they withdraw, they don’t sleep, some have no idea of time, they don’t know how long they have been prisoners, they have been moved from one place to another, we don’t know where”, he is dejected Niv.
«Abigail is 4 years old, terrorists killed her parents before her eyes. She managed to run away, she took refuge in a neighbour’s house, but then she was taken to Gaza with a woman and her three children. She was left without any of her close relatives, dad and mom dead, without being able to scream, sob, simply brush her teeth… How should we treat this little girl? At certain moments we feel helpless”, says Niv, lowering his voice in the face of such an overwhelming drama, “we don’t know what their mental situation will be like tomorrow, years from now. It will take a long time.”
“These children will probably need to be cared for all their lives,” acknowledges the deputy director of Schneider.