Mind-blowing: four months after conflict, Gaza mental health in crisis
Four months after the conflict in Gaza, we report from UNRWA’s health centre in Jabalia, northern Gaza, on disturbing post-traumatic stress figures from UNRWA’s Health Department
4 March 2013 Jabalia, Gaza
Every night, three-year-old Mohammed Saleh covers his ears with his tiny hands and screams until his body becomes as hard as wood. He hardly sleeps, wets the bed, and finds it hard to concentrate.
He is in a state of permanent anxiety, and has become hostile to family and friends. Read more about Mohammed (external link)
Thirty-year-old Amira from Jabalia refugee camp had only been married for a month when her husband was killed in the November conflict. Pregnant, she goes to his grave everyday and weeps. She believes he can hear her. She lives in the hope that he is still alive.
A mother who struggled to conceive two babies lost them both during the November conflict, in one air strike, as they lay in bed next to her husband, who was badly injured. Her counsellor says she has lost the will to live.
These vignettes show the human stories behind mental health figures recently unveiled by UNRWA’s Health Department. The statistics show levels of psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the Gaza Strip have doubled, compared before and after the fighting in November.
Of those patients treated by UNRWA for PTSD, 42 per cent are under the age of nine. In one health centre alone, the incidence of miscarriages has risen; from one to two per week before the war, to five to seven per week after the event.
Mental health treatment is one of a range of basic health services offered by UNRWA to some 1.2 million Palestine refugees in Gaza.
Mental health counselling is offered in all 21 UNRWA clinics in Gaza, with many cases referred to a specialised team of counsellors by regular UNRWA health workers, who number over 1,200 in Gaza.
Jabalia health centre is UNRWA's largest clinic in Gaza, served by 18 doctors and 25 nurses.