Siege and Mental Health

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This report examines the effect of the Israeli siege on Gaza on the local population's mental health.

Transcript of Siege and Mental Health

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  • S iegeand Mental HealthWalls vs. Bridges

    [email protected]?,,,k? Xs?fk? iS?? 27 - 28 2008October

    Gaza - Ramallah - Palestine

    World Heal thOrganization

    Gaza Community Men tal Heal th Programme

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    Advisory CommitteeTaysir AbdallahSanna'a Abu DagaFadel Abu HeinSufian Abu Neje laAhmad Abu TawahinaMohamad AsqoolMahmoud DaherEyad El-SarrajJohn JenkinsNancy MurrayRana NashashibiAhmad OkashaJumana Ouda

    Samir QoutaMahmoud SehwailRaji Sourany

    Scientific CommitteeFederico AllodiSari BashiMohammad El-HelouUri HadarMuhammad Haj-YahiaVivian KhamisAbdallah MansourTed RyenersonBenedetto SaracenoDereck SummerfieldAyesh SamourAbed Aziz ThabetMark Van OmmerenIssam Yonis

    Organizing Committee:Mahmoud AbuAishaRajiah Abu SwayZahavi ArnonaMarwan DiabHusam El-NounouMichal GoldbergDyaa Saymah

    Conference Committees

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    Gaza Community Mental H ealth Programme(GCMHP) has decided to hold its fifth internationalconference "Siege and Mental Health Walls vs. Bridges"in partner ship w ith World Health Organization (WHO) toaddress a critical issue which i s the Siege . Israel hasimposed a tightened unprecedented siege on the Gaza StripsinceJune 15th, 2007. As par tof ourmiss ion, w eatGCMHPand WHO are organizing this conference in attempt tohighlight the impact of the siege on mental health andhuman rights of the Palestinian population in Gaza. At thisstage, we would acknowledge the following persons andorganizations for their hard work and support, w ithoutwhom this event would not be possible. First and foremost,we would like to extend our sincere appreciation to theconference donors for their generous cont ributions toGCMHP's 5th International. Also, we are so grateful toWHO - Cosponsor of the conference - for its financial andlogistic help. We would also like to express our specialthanks to Dr. Nancy Murray for her sincere efforts inpromoting the conference participation in the USA, as wellas for her financial contribution. In addition, w e would liketo extend thanks and apprecia tion to the followingvolunteers for their help and assistance on the various tasksrequired to make this conference a success: Ms.Lisa Welze,PhD Candidate from the Universi ty of Oxford, for editingand administrat ive assistance; Prof. Aida Seif El-Dawla,from Al-N adim Center for the Rehabilitation of Vict ims ofViolence, Egypt, and Ms. Amal El-Shanty for theirassistance with transla tions. We w ould like to express ourthanks to the Palestinian International Campaign to End theSiegefor its efforts in organizing an international action dayand solidarity activitiessimultaneously with the conference.Also, we would thank all individuals and organizationinvolved in facilitati ng the field visits its efforts infacilitating the f ield visits for our conference. Finally, wewould like to extend our genuine thanks and gratitude to allof those w ho participated in this conference and expressedtheir solidarity with the Palestinian people living undersiege.


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    Despite the fact that the world is becoming smaller and more interconnected, the people of Gaza remaindistanced from the global community. Despite the fact that the divisions between nations are being bridged, the gapbetween the world and Gaza is widening.These circumstances are not the result of the will of the Palestinians in Gaza, butrather, have been forced upon them in the form of the siege. Only those who have experienced it firsthand can trulyunderstand the nature of the siege. In fact, the siege remains somewhat incomprehensible to the mind. Where should webegin? Shall we start by trying to explain the death of individuals who are not able to receive much needed medicalservices? Shall we attempt to describe the breadth of poverty thathas risen to an unprecedented level in history? Shall wetalk about the lack of basic materials andsupplies, including food and medicines, that are not able to enter into ourcities?Or shall we consider the lackof fuel and the ensuing darkness experienced as a result of that scarcity? Shall we discuss theparalysis of the waste and sewage systems that threaten disaster toboth humans and the surrounding environment? Can weconvey the feelings of frustration and suppression prevailing among our people? Or shall we describe the everyday livingconditions and the effects that will be embodied within our young people for generations tocome?The siege on Gaza, imposed for a period of over 15 months and with no foreseeable end in sight, has fostered feelings ofalienation and abandonment by the Palestinian people, which has made Palestinians unable to care for anything excepttheir basic needsof survival.These conditions have reached the extent to which survival has become animportant value inPalestinian society, in and of itself, and has elucidated clear signs of hopelessness and despair. How can we imagine thefuture of the Palestinian community under such conditions? How can we understand the generation of children who arebeing collectively punished, as are the remainder of the Palestinian population? How will their relationships with theirneighborhoods and communities develop as they become full members of society? How will they see the world aroundthem? How willthey addresstheir insecurities and needs? What language canthey use? Will i t be expressed as hatred andanger, which in turn will become expressions of violence and counter violence?What is the destiny of the programmes developed by the international and local organizations in the area of health andeducation? Will such investment lead to the expected results or will it ultimately become a failure?On the other hand, how doesthe outside world feel about what is happening in Gaza? Why has there been such an absolutesilence? How can we awaken the international conscience and free it from its slumber? Did the feelingof compassion andempathy die for them?And what about the human rights treaties? Do such treaties include Palestine and its people or does this reign of silencemean that Palestinians are not fully human in the international point of view? Will it take screams to wake up theinternational consciousness and incite a feeling of duty towards their fellow human beings? The international conference,organized by GCMHP and WHO, specifically designed to tackle the issue of the siege and its impacton the Palestinianspopulation, is a first attempt to dust off the issue of siege, which has become a marginalized issue among the internationalcommunity. Clarification about the disastrous impacts of the siege that are rising day by day. At GCMHP we are ingratitude to all those who areparticipating in the conference and who have endured the difficulties of coming to Gaza andhave shared in the suffering of the people of Gaza. We would also like to thank the WHO and all the donors for theirsupport and sponsorship in this conference. The attention by thesepeople, concerning what is happening in the Palestinianterritories, represents the solehope for a community living under abrutal siege.


    Dr. Ahmad Abu TawahinaDirector General - G aza Community Mental Health Programme

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    What does the world know of Gaza? It may know of the conflict andviolence, the heat and isolation. It may seeIsraeli jets screaming and stone throwing crowds. It may hear of the siege and the boat of celebrities- "Free Gaza" -whichbroke the blockade.But what does theworld really know about the place and the conditions in which Gazans live? What do people knowaboutthe effects of the long-standing conflict, in all its dimensions, on the mental health and well being of the population? Dothey - or we - begin to understand what is really going on and what the long-term implications for the population and theregion may be? What also do they know also of the positive side of the Gaza, of the strength of family and community, thehospitali ty and humour and the incredibleresilience ofthe people?Over the last several decades, Palestinian people have suffered from internal and external conflict and violence affectingtheir mental health and well being. The closure and effective siege of Gaza by the Israeli authorities over the past 16months have haddevastating consequences on the social, politicaland economic environment in Gaza, adding to the riskof individuals' developing serious mentalhealth problems. The aimof this international conference is tofocus attention ontheseand related issues and questions. Bybringing together local and international experts who have studied the effects onmental health of trauma and violence, in Gaza and other settings, it seeks to share what is known and identify what isunknown; to explore not only the effects of violence on mental health but the kind of mental health and psycho-socialservices which can make a difference. Wealso hope that the conference,, and the many papers which are being presentedat it, will act as a stimulus for further research and for the development of responsive mental health services