Children in the Iraqi city of Mosul are displaying extreme levels of psychological damage, with experts saying that such a level of mental trauma remains unseen even in neighbouring war-torn Syria, where fighting has entered its seventh year.
"It's like they've lost their ability to be children," Marcia Brophy, senior mental health advisor with Save the Children, told TRT World.
Similar studies conducted in countries such as Syria showed that children were still able to display a range of emotions.
But the situation in Mosul is "more tragic," she said.
Marcia Brophy spoke with TRT World about the mental health of children in Mosul.
"An Unbearable Reality"
In the recent report, "An Unbearable Reality," the NGO said that the children in Mosul are unable to express themselves and show their emotions.
The report is based on a study of 65 children of the Hammam Al Alil camp located in the south of Mosul.
They showed signs of toxic stress, which is the most severe form of stress, where the body and mind are in a constant fight or flight response, the report said.
"Left untreated, damage to the brain's architecture caused by toxic stress can have a life-long impact on children's mental and physical health, leading to increased instances of heart disease, depression, anxiety, diabetes and substance abuse," the NGO said.
No family support
Parents who are also psychologically affected by the traumas of war are unable to help children cope with the stress and violence, the NGO said.
About 90 percent of the children had lost at least one family member through death, separation during their escape, or abduction, the report said.
Mosul, Daesh's stronghold in Iraq, had been in a state of constant violence since the group took over the city three years ago.
Iraqi forces say that the only a small portion of the city is still under Daesh control.
Over 900,000 people from Mosul have been displaced since the offensive to take back the city started in October, 2016.
Almost 1,000 people have escaped the city in the past few days alone.
"Children escaping Mosul have gone through horror piled upon horror. They have been starved and abused inside the city," said Save the Children's Iraq Country Director, Ana Locsin.
"But the impact on children is clear: even if they make it out alive they are left scarred and broken. And right now, that's what Mosul's future looks like."
Author: Fatima Taskomur