homes destroyed in the Gaza Strip by «Operation Protective Edge»
of the population of the Gaza Strip are without work
people including 655,000 refugees have limited access to care
Living with the blockade in Gaza
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. 1.8 million people live there, with almost 70% of them living in the eight refugee camps. The humanitarian situation has worsened with the intensifying of the land, air and sea blockade imposed by Israel since 2007 and then with the Israeli military operations of 2008 - 2009, 2012 and 2014. The shortage of medicines, consumables and equipment is ongoing. Gaza is also short of ambulances and health centres or properly equipped emergency centres.
The shortage of medicines, consumables and equipment is ongoing...
In 2016, the number of exit visas granted to patients needing urgent care outside Gaza was reduced from 76.6 to 63.8%. Fortunately, following pressure from the international community and a relaxation of Israeli restrictions, the import of goods has enabled the renovation of health facilities and schools. However, by September only 1,300 homes, which were damaged in 2014 during «Operation Protective Edge», had been restored out of the 11,000 which were destroyed. And access to basic services is put at risk by frequent power cuts.
Finally, there are large numbers of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies in the Gaza Strip. In the absence of access to modern methods of contraception and adequate family planning services, mainly due to the blockade, women undergo unsafe abortions, with no medical intervention. A study makes clear that 12% of pregnancies are unwanted and 30% of pregnancies in Palestinian women come at a bad time. There are, however, some sexual and reproductive health services but women lack information on these services and on their rights.
Cohabiting with the settlers
In the West Bank, especially in the Nablus area, the population lives in a permanent state of extreme stress owing to the proximity of the Israeli settlements. Surrounded by a significant military presence, the Palestinians are regularly subjected to searches and check points. Some of the Israeli settlers are prone to attacking the Palestinian communities: harassment, beatings, stonings, shootings, damage to housing, destruction of crops – are the common lot of these villagers.
Stress and other mental health disorders which ensue are only rarely treated. The medical staff are not trained to detect them and the facilities to which the victims could be directed are too few in number to be able to satisfy the needs. Moreover, psychological and mental disorders carry a stigma and families do not instinctively turn to healthcare centres for this type of illness. Children and teenagers are particularly vulnerable.
Doctors of the World is working in the Gaza Strip to prepare healthcare facilities for emergency situations and to help them to better coordinate their activities. Nursing staff are given specific training in emergency care. By directing victims of crises to suitable facilities, the load on overburdened hospitals is lessened, and so the quality of primary healthcare is improved.
In addition, Doctors of the World works with the Palestinian NGO "Association for Culture and free thinking" to bring psychosocial support and mental healthcare to the affected population, particularly to women faced with an unwanted pregnancy in such difficult circumstances. Doctors of the World is working in a women’s centre managed by its partner CFTA, as well as in health centres to improve the quality of access to family planning services, the management of unwanted pregnancies and to improve post-abortion care.
Did you know?
The last Israeli military operation, named « Operation Protective Edge », began on 8 July 2014 and ended on 26 August. This was the most destructive operation the Gaza Strip has ever faced. Doctors of the World sees no let up in the consequences of the conflict and the eight year blockade for the civilian population of Gaza.
In Nablus region, Doctors of the World works to improve support for psychological illness and stress caused by settler violence. Medical staff are trained to detect these disorders so that patients can be referred to suitable healthcare facilities. A referencing system for mental health disorders, devised with the Ministry of Health has been adopted as an official national tool.
More directly, the association itself offers psychosocial support, particularly discussion groups. People who have suffered attacks or feel threatened can share their experiences. This helps them to build resilience when faced with violence and to better manage their stress. Sessions with psychosocial activities are also organised in schools for children.
In case of an incident, Doctors of the World teams come to the assistance of families within three days. If a family member is emotionally affected, the association provides emergency psychological care and continues the support for several weeks until eventually the victim is directed to additional care.
Along with other humanitarian organisations, Doctors of the World testifies to policy makers on the dramatic impact of the expansion of Israeli settlements on the Palestinian population. It lobbies the Palestinian authorities for mental health to be integrated into public health policy.
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