Our work is urgently needed because of the dire conditions in the Gaza Strip. Just 26 miles long and a few miles wide, it is home to two million Palestinians, more than half of them children. Over 70% are refugees who live in eight densely-crowded refugee camps. Young teenagers in the Gaza Strip have experienced three major Israeli military offensives – one lasting 51 days – and 14 years of being shut off from the wider world.
The massive physical and psychological injuries experienced by a civilian population with no place to hide, the devastation of land, homes, schools, clinics, infrastructure and the economy, and the ongoing suffocating siege are bound to have a lasting, dramatic impact on Gaza. In the Gaza Strip, individual and collective mental health are closely tied to the human rights abuses endured by Palestinians on a daily basis.
GCMHP head Yasser Abu Jamei describes why “a new mental health crisis is raging in Gaza“.
4 June 2021
“This Must End” 13 May 2021, a letter by Dr Yasser Abu-Jamei, a Palestinian clinical neuro-psychiatrist living in Gaza, on the conflict in Sheikh Jarrah, the predominantly Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Dr. Abu-Jamei is the Director General of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHF), a key partner of the Gaza Mental Health Foundation.
“I am writing this letter looking at my terrified 6-year old son, who keeps putting his hands over his ears trying block the sounds of Israel’s bombardment, my two daughters, aged 13 and 10 and my wife. These faces show the anxiety of not knowing where they can be safe now. My two older sons, 16 and 15, sit stunned and silent and I know they are reliving the memories of the previous three offensives on Gaza Strip and the family members we lost. These are the feelings that every family in the Gaza strip are living through.”
“I am a father first and a psychiatrist second. My dream for my children to live, to grow, to learn, in safety. This is the same dream as that of every one of the clients I see. There will be more of them today, and tomorrow. It is my job to give hope. I will tell them what I tell my children and my wife. ‘Because this injustice for Palestinians has gone on for seven decades, that does not make it normal. The world is increasingly full of people who do not accept it is normal. There will be change.’”
To see why our work is so crucial, please read The Great March of Return: Lessons from Gaza on Mass Resistance and Mental Health from and view these short films.
We thank IMEU, Donkeysaddle Projects and Just Vision for providing the video footage.
- REMEMBERING THE GAZA WAR: Just Before Dawn Watch
- REMEMBERING THE GAZA WAR: Ibrahim’s Tree Watch
- REMEMBERING THE GAZA WAR: 7 Futures, Frozen Watch
- REMEMBERING THE GAZA WAR: Kifah’s Kindergarten Watch
- REMEMBERING THE GAZA WAR: A Family Erased Watch
Israel/OPT: Respecting Fundamental Rights in Gaza is Pre-Condition to Achieving Peace, says UN Human Rights Expert
September 1, 2020 Michael Lynk, special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, cautioned that true peace, and the badly-needed reconstruction of Gaza, will only come with full respect of the fundamental rights of the two million Palestinians living there.
A Decade of Distress: The harsh and unchanging reality for children living in the Gaza Strip
Children and young people in Gaza live in economic hardship, under the threat of further conflict and with little opportunity of escape.
This report describes a research project undertaken in 2018, led by Save the Children’s mental health professionals, that aimed to better understand how these conditions have affected children’s and young people’s mental health and well-being. PDF Report
The survey of 300 children, young people and caregivers in five governorates across Gaza revealed high levels of severe emotional distress, with many children and young people living in fear and having nightmares every time they slept. A key finding of the research is that while children and young people in Gaza are resilient, they are vulnerable to toxic stress and are at high risk of developing serious and long-term mental health issues.
More positively, a significant number of children and young people reported that their families are a key source of support in their current circumstances, and it is this that is holding them back from the brink of a mental health crisis. But caregivers say their capacity to support their children is being pushed to the limits by the blockade, chronic poverty and insecurity, and would most likely be utterly destroyed in the event of another conflict.
There is however still hope, and the report makes a number of recommendations for actions to be taken urgently by duty bearers, the international community, donors and humanitarian agencies working in Gaza.
The Great March: Video by the UK Palestine Solidarity Committee
On March 30, 2018 and for most of the next two years, unarmed men, women and children participated in weekly demonstrations in the Gaza Strip known as The Great March of Return. Over 200 were killed, mainly by Israeli snipers, and some 35,000 injured. This short video describes why they continued to protest despite these heavy casualties.