The impact on the mental health and psychosocial well-being of people living through the latest fighting is one of the most significant consequences of each new round of this protracted armed conflict. In conflict zones, one in five people experiences mental health problems after the conflict has ended.
For the last 14 months, and since the end of the 10-day escalation of May 2021, people on both sides of the Gaza fence were left with a sense of edginess and uncertainty. It feels like everyone is sitting in some great waiting room, in between escalations, before the inevitable next tragedy comes.
This time last year, I was in Gaza. I stood next to a pile of rubble that Jamal and his family had once called home before the May 2021 escalation. Homeless and fearful, they then faced an uncertain future, adding their names to the countless lives consumed by the consequences of the most prolonged military occupation in modern history.
Over the years, fatigue and frustration have set in, particularly among the younger generation. Their profound sense of hopelessness and inability to see a better future greatly concerns me, as we all count on them to chart a better course. With the shift of international attention to Ukraine, lingering legacies of COVID-19, pressures of climate change, and the ripple effects of high inflation on the daily cost of living in communities, we are collectively doing little to lighten their load.
International Humanitarian Law (IHL) provides guardrails for the legal and humanitarian consequences of conflict. If all parties worked within the framework of IHL, everyone would gain. The goal is to ensure that civilian suffering during the escalation is kept to a minimum. We continue to engage with all sides on this important issue.
The ICRC welcomes the ceasefire, but even if it endures -and I very much hope that it does- people’s need for assistance and support remain. Eight in ten people in Gaza were already reliant on some form of humanitarian aid. This aid and support are important, and they can help prevent a total collapse in the short term. Nevertheless, only political solutions can bring sustainable improvement.
I want to thank the volunteers of the Palestine Red Crescent Society and Magen David Adom, who have been at the forefront of responding to urgent humanitarian needs even when they themselves were affected by the hostilities. Our priority alongside National Society partners is to continue assessing the most urgent humanitarian needs, support essential service providers and help affected people to begin the difficult, for some almost impossible, process of rebuilding their lives.
For more information, please contact:
Suhair Zakkout (Gaza): firstname.lastname@example.org M. +972 599 255 381
Tali Shamir (Tel Aviv): email@example.com M. +972524160917
Imene Trabelsi (Beirut): firstname.lastname@example.org M. +961 3 13 83 53
Jason Straziuso (Geneva): email@example.com M. +41 79 949 3512
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Notes for editors:
The ICRC has been present in Israel and the occupied territories since 1967. We promote compliance with IHL and work to mitigate the impact of violence, conflict and occupation on civilians through protection activities and assistance programmes. The ICRC visits detainees in Israeli and Palestinian places of detention and works to maintain family links through the Family Visit Programme. We also support livelihood projects and help improve access to essential services like water and electricity in Gaza. Above all, we stand up for people affected by conflict and promote their rights and dignity. The ICRC has offices in Tel Aviv, the West Bank and Gaza and supports the work of the Palestine Red Crescent Society and Magen David Adom in Israel.
More on the ICRC’s mental health programmes in Gaza:
In recent months, the ICRC has worked in Gaza with the Municipality, the Civil Defense & the Military Medical Services to provide mental health support to people with physical disabilities and to increase the capacity of these structures to provide psychosocial support to emergency first responders. At the same time, the ICRC is supporting the Barzilai Hospital in the south of Israel to improve their capacities in providing mental health attention to the population and health staff.
The ICRC has also sustained its partnership with the Ministry of Health to support the mental and psychosocial wellbeing of around 5,000 residents in the Gaza Strip, including but not limited to medical staff and self-isolating COVID-19 patients, as well as their caregivers.
Source : Icrc