Gaza: "People still look at the sky"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Little by little, the long-term effects of the three-week war are emerging among the population of Gaza. ACT-supported medical workers report that people intuitively still look at the sky for planes every time they leave their homes, and then once on the street people are scared by loud voices or the sudden moves of others.

"Everybody is traumatized in one way or another," says Dr. Suhail Madbak, Dean of the medical school at Al Azhar University in Gaza.

ACT International is working to coordinate both national and international psychosocial assistance in Gaza to ensure effective and appropriate care for those most traumatised by the war, particularly children who are suffering from various symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

"They are afraid to sleep alone and are sticking to their mothers. Some are unable to study," describes Dr. Salem Al-Adadlle, the Director of the Shaja'ih clinic in Gaza.

The effects of witnessing war and conflict, particularly the deaths of loved ones and friends, can cause lifelong trauma. Fifty-four percent of Gaza’s population are under 18 years old.

"Any loud voice stirs a reflection in their faces," tells the Director of the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, Dr. Suhaila Tarazi. She also says little children are especially shy to leave their mothers.

"We are organising limited counseling and social services right now," Tarazi says.

In the coming days, psychosocial workshops, trainings, and group therapy and debriefing sessions will begin to assist more than 4,000 affected children through local networks and community centres.

Additional water on the way
Members of ACT are working with a local Palestinian water company, called Jericho, to purchase 150,000 bottles of mineral water. With tap water not safe to drink in Gaza, these 1.5 litre bottles will be distributed together with milk powder for vulnerable mothers and their children.

Transport from Jericho to the Karem Shalom crossing usually takes three hours, but even before the latest conflict, trucks often had to wait at crossings for days. "I certainly hope it´ll happen this week. Everything is ready," reports Imad Hindi, the General Manager for Jericho.

Despite the current cease fire, significant humanitarian needs in Gaza still remain. ACT members have transported eight trucks of aid into Gaza over the past two weeks, even while the fighting was still ongoing. Aid supplies have included food, milk, blankets and medical supplies for Gaza clinics, the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, and distributions to displaced people living in camps and at UN Relief and Works Agency locations.