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Many young people in Gaza desperately need mental health support

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The situation in Gaza is unbearable for many. It has been described as an “open-air prison”, and the situation has become even worse amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. It has a population of approximately 2.1 million people and since 2007 it has been under a land, sea and air blockade imposed by Israel.

Years of conflict and the blockade have left 80% of the population dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive.

95% of Gazans lack access to clean water, and an ongoing power shortage impacts upon essential services like health, water and sanitation.

Almost half of Gaza’s people do not have enough food, around 60% of children are anaemic and many children suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition.

A generation of young people are psychologically scarred from the bombings and the blockade. 2 out of 3 adolescents in Gaza suffer from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and some young children cannot sleep due to nightmares. We must invest in and prioritise mental health services for young people.

Maryam’s story

“The most painful thing is to experience losing someone. This painful experience happened to me in the recent bombing of Gaza. I couldn’t control myself and I had a kind of nervous breakdown for days and I was crying all the time. It’s hard to lose someone close to your heart”, says 20-year-old Maryam from Gaza, describing how she painfully lost one of her closest friends.

“I was afraid of the bombing, but when I saw the picture of my friend and the scene of her death, I couldn’t control myself. I always wondered when the bombing stopped if we would come out alive or dead.

“The recent bombing of Gaza was the most violent. Most of the victims were children and the elderly. Fear was something we all felt, and sadness as well.

“Most of the places we used to go out to entertain ourselves were damaged, even the towers in which the educational centres used to be were destroyed. That was where we used to go for our courses and training.

“The bombing stopped, but it left deep psychological wounds inside the people of Gaza.

“We feel pain and depression when we find an entire family that died in the bombing, and only a small child has survived. We keep thinking about how he will continue his life. The loss is very painful for that small child. Perhaps if a person lost their life, it would be easier than losing someone they used to see, like a colleague, a friend, a member of their family.

“My mother has a brain tumour. She fainted due to the psychological pressure of the bombing, but it was very difficult to move her and to reach the hospital, for fear that the bombing would take place while she was on her way from one place to another.

“It is possible that you can be subjected to more harm when you move, so ill people prefer to stay at home and bear the pain that they go through rather than go out and be exposed to greater danger.

“Our doctors in Gaza are working efficiently to provide health care, but in the end, no matter how many medical services we have, it will not be enough. The number of patients is large, especially those with chronic diseases who need to travel to receive medical services that are not available in Gaza.

“But we find it very difficult to travel. For example, occasionally, my mother must travel abroad to receive treatment. Due to the closures at the crossings, she had to try to travel twice, but in the end all her attempts were unsuccessful, and she returned home.

“We were very shocked at how she was treated. My mother was in very poor health, and travelling was physically and psychologically tiring for her.

“I study mechatronics engineering. I’m excelling as a student but I am afraid when I graduate from university, I will not be able to find a job – like thousands of other graduates in Gaza.

“I know many who graduated from universities and after years of studying hard were not able to get jobs, and this negatively impacted their lives. You find that the youth in Gaza become frustrated or feel forced to travel abroad.

“What worries me the most is losing sick family members who cannot have adequate healthcare. Their health will deteriorate, and we will have to experience the bitterness of losing them.

“Regarding education, I’m afraid that I will not get any job opportunities after graduation, and my efforts in education and in developing skills will be in vain.

“Despite my anxiety and worries I still have a great ambition to be successful and distinguished in my field of study, to graduate, and find a job through which I can make a positive impact on society and be useful to the people around me”, says Maryam.

Please help the young people in Gaza, many of whom have been left traumatised: Donate today.