In the Gaza Strip, 15 years of lockdown Israel by land, sea and air and the numerous escalations of violence caused constant trauma to its residents and therefore mental health crisis.
More than two million people live in 365 square kilometers. The entire population has survived for 15 years without freedom of movement and restrictions imposed on the entry and exit of materials and products.
The Gaza Strip had not yet recovered from the devastating Israeli offensive of May 2021 when it faced the horror of death again in August this year. Five military offensives in the last 15 years.
They also suffer from a chronic electricity crisis, with an average of 8 hours of power per day and 90% of water not fit for consumption.
This whole cocktail makes the enclave have very high levels of unemployment reaches over 60%a percentage that shoots up if we talk about young people and women, and approx 65% live below the poverty line.
With this brutal economic, social and political inconsistency, it is not surprising that the population needs psychological and social support.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported a significant increase in levels of mental disorders among the population of Gaza, especially among children. Half of them suffer from mental problems. Those who have reached the age of 15 do not know what life is like without a blockade and have experienced up to five times the horror and violence of offensives. The lasting trauma is indescribable.
Khadeeja Matar is a refugee from Palestine and a teacher of deaf children. At 32, she is also a mother of three children, with whom she lives in northern Gaza. One of them is Jeanne, 11 years old, who suffers from stress and anxiety as a result of the sound of Israeli bombardment and the sirens of ambulances and emergencies.
“Some nights we heard loud noises. It is very difficult to see your daughter screaming inconsolably. The stress doesn’t even allow her to eat. I try to make her feel more comfortable by telling her that her whole family is here by her side, there is no war, there are no missiles, and that we are alive. He suffers from nightmares if we turn off the light to sleep and unconsciously bites his nails out of nervousness until he injures himself. It is not easy to see your daughter growing up with the fear of visiting relatives or going out with her friends, because any place can be attacked,” says a worried Khadija.
According to OCHA data, a third of the population in Gaza needs psychological support. And all of these people are facing their traumas a hospital specializing in mental health, with a capacity of 50 beds to serve the five provinces. Psychosocial trauma reaches epidemic proportions in the enclave.
“I want my daughter to have good mental health. Some friends recommended me to a professional, but we don’t have many treatment options for young people. I am doing my best to create a safe environment for my children while trying to ignore the catastrophic situation in Gaza and the endless conflict we livesays Khadeeja.
Ibrahim Ibrahim, also a Palestinian refugee from Gaza, from the village of Sarafand, south of Haifa, lives with anxiety about the behavior his five-year-old son has developed since the latest attacks on Gaza. the little sufferer bedwettinga pathology that causes involuntary urination during sleep at an age when the child is expected to no longer urinate at night. “My son keeps asking me if we’re going to survive,” Ibrahim says.
The mental health and psychological support program that the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) carried out to alleviate this situation is one of the most important projects of its kind in Gaza and is trying more than 87,000 cases.
But the reality is that the people of Gaza live in a constant state of frustration, depression, helplessness and hopelessness as a result of the profound deterioration of economic, social and political conditions. On World Mental Health Day, it is important to remember that the right to health, including mental health, education and a dignified life, are clearly enshrined in International Human Rights Law.