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Health in Palestine: Background

Devastating environments have a great impact on the mental
health status of Palestinians, and the prevalence of mental health
problems is increasing.  21 percent of children under 12 have
anxiety disorders, a figure that is higher in girls. Among patients
visiting primary health care centres for physical symptoms, 73%
had anxiety and depression symptoms, and only 11% were
detected by physicians. (Thabet et al 1998 and Afana et al, 2003)

In 2004 (Centre for Law report, 2004), more than 946 individuals
were killed by the Israeli Army. Among these were 219 children
below 16 years; 40 women; 38 elderly and 8 disabled people, in
addition to 6000 persons that were injured. The Israeli occupying
forces continued to destroy and demolish Palestinian houses and
agricultural farms. In the year 2004, the Israeli forces destroyed
5267 donums (each donum equals 1000 Sq meters), of mainly
olive and vegetable farms, and 1594 houses in the Gaza strip.  
Such home demolitions have left thousands of Palestinians
homeless and displaced for the third or and fourth time since the
Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe, in 1948.  As part of the
collective punishment by the Israeli government, frequent closures
of the Palestinian areas leave tens of thousands of Palestinian
laborers unable to leave their place of community for work.

Approximately 7300 Palestinians were placed in Israeli jails among
them 250 females and 474 children, aged 16-18 years. In the last
four years 6 prisoners passed away because of improper medical
and health care in addition to 950 prisoners suffering from serious
medical conditions.  Hundreds of unjustified checkpoints that
separate villages and cities prevent people from moving freely and
make the daily life of the Palestinians miserable and despondent.
People are wedged in their villages with no proper access to health
facilities and food while children are often unable to reach their
schools because of checkpoints and fear. In 2004, more than 117
people died on the checkpoints waiting for emergency services,
while many women gave birth on the checkpoints without any
considerations for human dignity.

Health staff and emergency health services are not smoothly
delivered because of hindrances imposed by the Israeli Army.
Medical staff –sometimes- loses their lives in order to save the life
of others. Since the eruption of the second Intifada (Sept. 2000),
more than 36 health staff have been killed by the Israeli Army.

Such an overwhelming situation excludes no one. Every individual
has been affected. Indeed, the most vulnerable groups are women
and children. Children form more than half of the total population of
the Gaza Strip. If the health problems of these children are not
dealt with early in their development, they are at risk later for
conduct problems as teens and anti-social behaviors as adults.
Children in Gaza have a right to grow up as happy and responsible
citizens. This model citizen is born in the home, the classroom, or in
summer camps.  Many children need a program of rehabilitation
that will allow them to reintegrate into society, the family structure,
and the nation.  As there is a lack of professionals specialized in
Child Psychiatry (one child psychiatrist for 50,000 children in Gaza)
and a great need for child mental health services, there is a
pressing need for training more professionals in the field of child
mental health.

Through research, advocacy and service, Jesoor strives to meet
these critical health needs of Palestinians.
 
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