Imagine that your six-year-old child has already experienced three wars. Imagine that your colleague lost 21 family members during the war. Imagine being confined to your home with 40 family members for 50 days as leaving was not safe. Imagine that a bomb destroyed your Uncle’s home, the one that is next door to yours. Imagine that you must run from you home for safety carrying your children past the dead bodies of your neighbors.
All of the stories above were relayed to me as events our MSF national staff experienced during the war. The mental and physical impact of these events is real. MSF recognizes this and has been offering psychotherapy to our national and expatriate staff, but what about the rest of the people in Gaza?
MSF started offering mental health services in Gaza in 2000 although the spectrum of our services has varied ranging from multiple clinics and home visits in Gaza (2007) to only intermittent support for MSF staff (since 2011). All of our work is dependent on alignment with and permission from the Minister of Health (MoH) and their priorities which has changed over the years with the political climate in the territory.
MSF is nothing if not persistent with the MoH on this important matter. Over the years we have sent multiple petitions and engaged in multiple meetings outlining the importance of mental health services. Our persistence has paid off… MSF just received permission from the MoH to offer mental health support for the patients in our clinics. Perhaps this expanded permission from the MoH is evidence of a renewed understanding of the value this support can provide to the people of Gaza, adults and children alike.