Children traumatised by the conflict in Libya are suffering from nightmares, separation anxiety and bed wetting, a British charity worker said yesterday.
Jenny Humphreys, 35, who is working for Save the Children in Benghazi, said thousands of children have fled Misurata, Brega and Ajdabiya to the city where they are beginning to deal with the psychological impact of what they have experienced.
She said: “Children have witnessed some disturbing sights over the last six months and it does have a psychological effect.
“Children have fled to Benghazi and they are displaying symptoms of distress like nightmares and separation anxiety, they can be very aggressive or very withdrawn, they are wetting the bed.
“There is a great need for psycho-social support that can be offered through games and getting them out in the open and they start opening up about what they have seen.
“They have witnessed the destruction of their homes and neighbourhoods. They have seen death and injury of their family or neighbours, terrible sights.
“The family unit in Libya is very strong and they are suffering because that has been torn apart. They speak of their anxiety about the men of their family who have gone off to fight and not been heard from so older children take on responsibility.”
It is still too dangerous for aid workers from the charity to get into Tripoli but Ms Humphreys said they would be travelling to the capital as soon as it is safe to do so.
She said Save the Children offer child-friendly spaces, often run from schools, and workshops for small groups providing activities, games and discussions.
Ms Humphreys, from Streatham Hill in London, said: “They learn life skills through games, about peace and reconciliation, about communication and negotiation, in a way that allows them to start processing these distressing experiences with children who have been through similar things.
“In a supportive environment they can discuss things that are troubling them. It is through play and activities they unconsciously start to deal with the things they have seen.”
Ms Humphreys, who has worked for the charity for a year and has been in Libya since early May, said she expects to remain in the country until Christmas.
“It is distressing, a lot of the children put on a brave face but they are profoundly affected by what has happened. It is rewarding when you see improvements to their wellbeing.”