Seven years later — and five years after invading a country that had no connection to 9/11, didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, and had no ties to Al Qaeda — the children of Iraq who haven’t been blown up in their homes have suffered such loss and poverty that they’re forced to abandon their educations and enter the workforce to support their families. If they’re lucky they won’t be forced into Iraq’s booming child sex trade, or Syria’s for that matter. That is, if they survive the latest cholera outbreak.
Yet we have no regrets. In fact, we’d do it again.
Is it any wonder they suffer with PTSD, too?
The increasing number of Iraqi children affected with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of the saddest, and least known, legacies of the Iraq war.
A new clinic for their treatment just opened in Baghdad. That it is the first of its kind says a lot about how this problem is being addressed. Until now, as related by journalist Lourdes García Navarro, hundreds of children suffering from PTSD have been treated by Dr. Haider Maliki at the Central Pediatric Teaching Hospital in Baghdad.
… Children have been the victims of the Iraq political situation for several years. It began with the United Nations sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein’s regime, and continued with the U.S.-led wars against the country. The victims have mostly been children. According to some estimates, almost two million children had to leave school and start working in the streets to supplement their families’ meager incomes.
PTSD in children can affect their brain and lead to long term effects that will alter their development. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine found that children with PTSD were likely to experience a decrease in the size of the brain area known as hippocampus, which is a brain structure important in memory processing and emotion.
Stress sustained over a long period of time is likely to cause more serious effects. An estimated half a million Iraqi children had been traumatized by conflict, according to a 2003 UNICEF report.
[Photo via James Gordon @ Flickr]