An alarming number of child suicide attempts have been reported in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, according to Save The Children, shedding a light on the psychological toll war takes on civilians, and especially children.
At least six teenagers and seven young adults have attempted suicide in the last two months alone, the humanitarian organization’s Wednesday statement said. There were almost no cases reported before July 2015, when Madaya was besieged.
And hundreds more are suffering from psychological problems and mental illness “including severe depression and paranoia, often brought on or exacerbated by the conditions they are living in,” the statement added.
“The children are psychologically crushed and tired,” a Madaya teacher told Save the Children. “When we do activities like singing with them, they don’t react at all, they don’t laugh like they would normally.
“They draw images of children being butchered in the war, or tanks, or the siege and lack of food.”
“The pressure of living under these conditions for years on end without respite is too much to bear, especially for children,” added Sonia Khush, Syria director for Save the Children. “There are more than 250,000 children living under siege in Syria and while they are resilient, we see the signs of trauma and distress every day.”
The lack of medical support in Madaya adds to these troubles. The town has suffered from a meningitis outbreak in recent weeks ― a totally curable disease that is killing people since there’s no access to treatment.
HuffPost recently profiled the family of an 11-year-old boy suffering from meningitis who was able to get successfully evacuated to Damascus. Now, though, his parents and siblings have contracted the illness.
At least six cases of meningitis have been confirmed by the World Health Organization, with new cases springing up daily. And recurrent bouts of starvation and malnutrition have killed 86 people in a year-long government siege of the town.
People around the world began paying attention to Madaya when images of emaciated civilians surfaced. The government temporarily relented and let in food and supplies, but even after aid convoys reached the town, the death toll continued to climb.