By Dr. Nancy Murray
"When I see 1.4 million trapped in a situation of collective punishment, without rights, I have to raise that, and I will go on raising it."
These are the words of Mary Robinson, a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and former president of Ireland, who was one of the few outsiders permitted to enter the Gaza Strip in November. She told the BBC on November 4th that it was “almost unbelievable that the world doesn’t care while this is happening…Their whole civilization has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating.”
Since Israel tightened its closure of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, eighty percent of Gaza’s residents have been pushed beneath the poverty line. More than 50,000 children are seriously malnourished, with half of those under the age of two suffering from anemia. Gaza’s only power plant has been functioning at less than 50 percent of its capacity due to fuel cuts, water is polluted, the sewage system has broken down, medications are in short supply and more than a million people have been dependent on daily emergency assistance. More than 250 patients had died after being denied permits to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.
Conditions deteriorated still further in early November when Israel slammed the door shut on even emergency fuel and food supplies. On November 14, the UN announced it had to suspend the distribution of food to 750,000 people in Gaza’s refugee camps because “our warehouses are effectively empty.”
The Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip is not just killing the spirit and sometimes the lives of Gazans, half of whom are children. It is also destroying all hopes for a peaceful future in the region.
Studies carried out by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP), founded by Dr. Eyad el-Sarraj in 1990, show a frightening rise in trauma, as children fall victim to night terrors, loss of appetite, insomnia, and symptoms of panic and aggression. Adults are suffering from panic disorders, depression and psychosomatic disorders as they struggle to cope with the deeply inhuman situation. Former US president Jimmy Carter was right to call the siege “an atrocity, a crime, an abomination.”
The staff of GCMHP has moved into high gear in its efforts to help the people of Gaza overcome the psychological effects of the violence that surrounds them, and confront the all-pervasive despair and depression.
Please let them know they are not alone. You can help the GCMHP alleviate the psychological suffering of the Palestinian people by writing a check to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, and sending it and your contact information to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation, PO Box 495, Boston, MA 02112.
The Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Inc. was established in 2001 to raise funds in the United States to support the critically important work being carried out by the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Your donations, which are fully tax-deductible to the extent provided by the IRS Code, are forwarded in their entirety to the GCMHP. You can find out more about the Gaza Mental Health Foundation by visiting our website, www.gazamentalhealth.org.
This moving YouTube video will give you a closer look at what the people of the Gaza Strip are facing while much of the world is standing silently by.
Thank you for your generosity and for choosing to take a stand against the collective punishment of the people of the Gaza Strip.
Dr. Nancy Murray
President of Gaza Mental Health Foundation, Inc.