The conflict that started in June 2014 was among the deadliest in Gaza, though both the exact number of deaths and the percentage of the dead who were militants as opposed to civilians have been disputed. According to the Gaza Health Ministry, 2,016 citizens have been killed and 10,196 have been wounded (80 % were civilians). According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 1,417 (72 %) of 1,975 deaths they documented were civilians, of whom 698 (35 % of all deaths) were women or children.
All of these attacks wrecked civilian infrastructure. Families are constantly under strain and the repeated bombings and “targeted” killings have given them repeated traumas without allowing any time for a proper recovery process to take hold. The 1.5 million of the Gaza Strip population lives in overcrowded conditions, with poor housing and deteriorating infrastructure. Nearly 50 % of the population are children under the age of 14, according to the World Health Organization.
Thousands of children and young adults in Gaza Strip were injured during the conflicts. Some of them suffered severe injuries such as limb amputations. Although the physical and medical rehabilitation system has been developing through the years in Gaza Strip, injured persons, especially children, are still unable to benefit from proper treatment and the use of appropriate medical devices.
What we do
Since the start of the project in 2009, over 300 children/young adults have been medically triaged in Gaza Strip by joint ITF/University Rehabilitation Institute Republic of Slovenia (URI – Soča) team, 109 children/young adults from Gaza Strip (eleven groups) rehabilitated at URI – Soča and 20 local physiotherapists from Gaza Strip trained in Slovenia.
From 2015, the project emphasis has been given towards capacity building in Gaza. In the framework of psychosocial aid for the victims in Gaza, ITF with its partners (local NGO Mental Health Promotion Capacity Building Center- MHPC and Slovenian expert Dr. Anica Mikuš Kos, pediatrician and child psychologist) is implementing the project “Mental Health Program for pre-school & school children in Gaza Strip”. The majority of school students are in need of mental health services because of their dramatic living conditions, but due to the stigma attached to mental illness, many of those in need of such services became reluctant to visit mental health centers. The school-counselling units as a source for community mental health are important, as they are more accessible and responsive to needs of those suffering from emotional and behavioral problems.
In addition, online rehabilitation course “Spiral Stabilization of Spine” for 10 physiotherapists from Gaza is implemented by Slovenian physiotherapist trainer Ms. Barbara Zrnec together with non-profit organization Zavod NUR. Current trainers are also working closely together with former participating experts/trainers, at providing psychosocial online courses. With the obtained knowledge local Gaza physiotherapist will be able to help disabled children in their homes, as the current local capacities do not offer suitable health-care facilities.
Since 2015, ITF has been building capacities within Gaza in order to integrate mental health and psychosocial services within the education system and to train rehabilitation professionals and thereby ensure rehabilitation of patients in Gaza.
Gaza is one of the most crowded places on Earth and there is a high risk that COVID-19 will have damaging results if the numbers of infected people will rise due of the lack of medical and protective equipment.
During the epidemic, ITF together with its partners Zavod NUR and URI – Soča provided protective equipment (gloves, mask, overalls, disinfectant) to medical workers in Gaza Strip, NGOs and others who do not have the possibility to buy protective equipment. In addition, 20 medical workers from Gaza Strip joined an online training course on disinfection and its role in preventing COVID-19. The training was implemented by medical workers from URI Soča together with Zavod NUR and a local organization.