Mental Health Protection of Palestinian Children in the Gaza Strip
The Gaza Strip is a region in which all children are experiencing many adversities related to armed conflict, poverty, and, recently, the coronavirus epidemic. It is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with approximately 1.9 million people residing on 365 square kilometers. It is estimated that children represent almost half of the region’s total population.
For many years, these children have been witnessing violence, leaving them traumatized. Many have experienced the loss of a family member or friend, which has a tremendous impact on their mental health and emotional well-being. The situation was further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which has a strong impact on the region and on the psychosocial well-being of families and children.
To address these issues, ITF and its local implementing partner, the NGO Mental Health Promotion & Capacity Building Center (MHPC), supported schools and kindergartens in the Gaza Strip with the means to protect the mental health of children. Activities addressed teachers, school counsellors and mental health professionals as well as children and their parents. A model of school-based mental health protection was developed and successfully implemented. The work on the project started in August 2015 and concluded in December 2020, achieving great results.
By including 62 schools and kindergartens throughout the Gaza Strip, more than 15,800 children benefitted from the program. About 1,200 teachers and school counsellors participated in activities throughout the five-year period, receiving education and developing knowledge that will allow them to continue providing psychosocial support for their pupils in the future.
About 2,000 parents also participated in trainings and workshops, acquiring new skills and knowledge that will enable them to assist their children with psychosocial problems.
By focusing on all of these stakeholders, the project contributed to the mental health of children in the community as a whole. Parent meetings, public appearances of school workers, visits of mental health professionals, and dissemination of educational materials helped raise awareness of the importance of mental health in the Gaza Strip.
Additionally, special school-based counselling units were created, providing treatment for children with serious mental health problems and further counselling for their parents. During the project, more than 500 children were treated in these units and even more will be able to receive support after the project has ended.
ITF is grateful to the Mental Health Promotion & Capacity Building Center in Gaza for their support in implementing these activities as well as to all the experts, who participated during the five-year duration of the project: Dr. Anica Mikuš Kos, Dr. Ahmed Abu Tawahina +, Dr. Abdel Aziz Thabet+, Dr. Sami Owaida and others.
In addition, a special thanks goes to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia (Slovenia’s Development Cooperation), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea and the OPEC Fund for International Development for their longstanding financial support. None of these activities would be possible without their generous donations.