Beyond funding, psychosocial support in Gaza needs better strategy

By Anna Patricia Valerio 27 July 2015

Boys in Gaza play on a water slide during UNRWA Summer Fun Weeks, a two-week program filled with activities, such as games and sports, to encourage creativity and promote psychosocial well-being. According to a 2014 estimate by UNICEF, at least 373,000 children in Gaza require mental health support. Photo by: Shareef Sarhan / United Nations / CC BY-NC-ND

The cost of conflict in Gaza is often said to be one that is disproportionately paid for by its youth. When the demographics and deaths are considered, the claim is difficult to contest.

Estimates from the U.N. Population Fund point to a mostly young population in Gaza: Of Gaza’s 1.71 million people, 53 percent are aged 15 to 29. Meanwhile, according to UNICEF, more than 500 children have been killed and 3,300 children have been injured in the most recent escalation of war with Israel.

But beyond the casualties lies a much less examined human toll. According to a 2014 estimate by UNICEF, at least 373,000 children in Gaza require mental health support. While a recent Overseas Development Institute report focusing on psychosocial care in Gaza notes that the lack of baseline information makes it difficult to determine the extent of the need for mental health services, a 2014 report from the Palestinian Ministry of Health shows adolescents experience post-traumatic stress disorder and other forms of anxiety and depression.

Often painted as a tumultuous period of a person’s life, adolescence is tough enough for many living away from conflict zones. But being an adolescent in the middle of conflict is a different plight altogether. Combine war with a lack of economic opportunities and it’s not hard to imagine how dire the situation is for many Gazans — adults and adolescents alike.

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About the author

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Anna Patricia Valerio

Anna Patricia Valerio is a Manila-based development analyst focusing on writing innovative, in-the-know content for senior executives in the international development community. Before joining Devex, Patricia wrote and edited business, technology and health stories for BusinessWorld, a Manila-based business newspaper.

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