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UN Study Finds Deep Psychological Trauma Among Mostar Children With AM-Yugoslavia, Bjt

February 25, 1994

GENEVA (AP) _ Children trapped in besieged eastern Mostar are suffering severe psychological trauma as they try to cope daily with death, mayhem and deprivation, according to a U.N. study released Friday.

″In many parts of the town, children have lived for months in total darkness, without any light to see the faces of their loved ones,″ UNICEF said in a summary of the study. ″They know that stepping outdoors in the daylight may result in them being shot at by snipers.

″The level of the trauma reactions is the highest documented by UNICEF in former Yugoslavia,″ it said. ″The situation in Mostar is extremely alarming.″

More than 50,000 people, mostly Muslims, have been under siege by Bosnian Croat forces for nine months in the eastern part of Mostar, the main city in southwestern Bosnia-Herzegovnia.

About 13,000 children are among the refugees there, the U.N. agency’s report said.

Interviews with 21 children ages 12 to 17 under the supervision of a psychologist turned up alarming results, the report said, including a growing feeling that life was not worth living.

UNICEF spokeswoman Brigitte Duchesne acknowleged the difficulty of generalizing from so few interviews, but said they were done as the basis for a larger study.

She said a similar two-step study in Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital, showed little change in overall results between the initial sample of 75 children and a final study involving 1,500.

The Mostar results indicate that children are experiencing ″a wide variety of severe pyschological problems″ because of exposure to ″shooting and shelling, killing and wounding and severe lack of food and other basic survival means,″ the report said.

Among the most ominous findings: Children become increasingly careless about seeking shelter from shelling and sniping because prolonged exposure to violence has left them ″with a state of mind that ’I don’t care whether I get killed today or tomorrow.‴

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