This Sydney psychologist spent weeks in Gaza. She saw children ‘frozen’ from starvation

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun13,2024
When clinical psychologist Scarlett Wong began receiving children in Gaza for treatment, her team was told the kids needed help for developmental delay or autism. But their condition had nothing to do with either.
“When you see a starving child, they are apathetic – they have no response,” Wong told SBS News.

“That is the kind of thing we were seeing from a medical view … children have become frozen, with no emotion and apathetic.”

The United Nations has warned Palestinians in Gaza are enduring , a situation the UN secretary general said was “entirely man-made”.
Israel has been accused by human rights groups and the European Union’s foreign policy chief of using starvation as a weapon of war.
It has denied these claims, saying any food shortages are the result of the UN failing to distribute aid and Hamas looting shipments, rather than a failure on its part to facilitate the entry of aid to Gaza.

Wong spent three weeks in Gaza earlier this year in the midst of war while volunteering for Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders), describing her experience as the “the worst humanitarian disaster I have ever seen”.

The Sydney-based psychologist said , saying while she had seen starvation before, she had never seen people “be starved”.

One of the most surreal moments, she told SBS News, was seeing children flying homemade kites with quad-copters shooting in the background.

Adults and children sitting on a sand pile outside a Medecins sans Frontieres clinic.

The clinic in the al-Mawasi area where Wong worked. Source: Supplied

For her, it was a sign of hope and resilience to see children find a way to be children amidst the devastation.

“Children haven’t been to school for seven months and if you think about what that was like during COVID for us, and we had safety, how hard that was.

“They didn’t have school and they had … bombs raining down on them. The children were listening to quad-copters, and we knew what that meant.”

Scarlett Wong standing in front of a makeshift clinic with a sign that has the Medecins Sans Frontieres logo.

Scarlett Wong spent three weeks volunteering for Medecins Sans Frontieres in Gaza. Source: Supplied

‘Tell them about our lives’

But as her placement was wrapping up in Gaza, it was the final messages from her colleagues to the world that still haunt her.
“They said, ‘Can you tell everybody who’s helped us, thank you’,” Wong remembers.

“And then they said, ‘Tell your children about us, tell them about our lives and that we love life’.

“That’s what they said, because they actually do absolutely love life. They’re beautiful people just like you and me — they have families, they are gynaecologists, obstetricians, art lovers, football lovers.

“They should be humanised.”

On Tuesday, Christos Christou, international president of Médecins Sans Frontières,, arguing Israel was “blatantly ignoring” a United Nations resolution calling for a ceasefire.
Wong urged Australians not to give up hope or “disengage”.

“One more child that we support is everything,” she said.

“There is a lot we can do, please don’t forget about them.”
Israel has bombarded Gaza since Hamas’ 7 October attack in which more than 1,200 people, including an estimated 30 children, were killed and over 200 hostages taken, according to the Israeli government.

More than 36,050 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza since 7 October, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The 7 October attack was a significant escalation in the long-standing conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Israel has denied it is blocking aid to Gaza, and said it was acting on its right to defend itself “consistent with its moral values and in compliance with international law, including international humanitarian law”.

A spokesperson for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said: “Israel will continue its efforts to enable humanitarian assistance and will act, in full compliance with the law, to reduce as much as possible harm caused to the civilian population in Gaza.”

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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