The 25-mile long, 6-mile wide Gaza Strip forms part of Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories and is home to more than 1.5 million Palestinians. In 2005, Israeli forces unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in a move many hoped would be the beginning of a final Arab-Israeli peace settlement. However, the subsequent election of the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas escalated political tensions and violence with Israel, which today enforces a blockade of the territory to reduce the flow of arms.
International Medical Corps began working in Gaza in 2008, after Israel launched a military offensive that displaced thousands of civilians. We responded with mobile medical teams to provide emergency primary health care, as well as trained mental health practitioners capable of delivering psychosocial and mental health services in the community. Today we continue our work in improving the health and well-being of the people of Gaza through a mental health programme that builds the capacity of local service providers.
World Health Organization statistics indicate that severe mental disorders (SMI) increase between 1-4% in areas of armed conflict, while the rate of more moderate mental problems jump by as much as 10%.
International Medical Corps responded to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza in late 2008, partnering with the Jordan Health Aid Society to form five mobile medical teams. Each provided emergency primary health care to civilians trapped in the fighting. With a physician and nurse practitioner from each team crossed-trained in disaster mental health as well as basic health services, we quickly realised the urgent need for psychosocial and mental health services at primary care clinics and within the community.
In May, 2009, we launched a programme entitled, “Addressing the emergency mental health and psychosocial needs of the most vulnerable in Gaza”. Nearly 40% of patients treated were younger than 15 years-old. In addition to screening and treating patients with severe mental illness (SMI) and common mental disorders (CMD), we are building local capacity, training local health care workers to identify, manage and refer common disorders such as mood swings and anxiety, as well as more severe afflictions such as schizophrenia.
International Medical Corps UK recognises the invaluable support of the following European donors to make our work possible.