UN Survey Highlights Psychological Trauma in Gaza

The UN Inter-Agency Gender Task Force (IAGTF), a mechanism for integrating gender concerns into UN policies and programmes, on 23 April published the results of a household survey on the needs and perceptions of men and women in the aftermath of Israel’s recent 23-day military offensive in Gaza.

The survey was conducted through face-to-face interviews with 1,100 adult men and women across the Gaza Strip in the first week of March 2009. IAGTF is led by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Psychological trauma was consistently rated as a main concern by respondents regardless of gender, region, or social group, and psychosocial services were deemed to be a critical need, like food and water, according to the survey.

“We have to help ourselves recover from the images and memories of the war,” said Iptihal, (she declined to giver her family name), aged 24, a public relations officer for a heritage organisation in Gaza City. “Counselling is not readily available; we only have one psychiatric hospital, and it is not socially acceptable to seek psychological treatment.”

Iptihal said she was most affected by her inability to help others near her who had suffered and died.

With increased stress and limited access to psycho-social services, one emerging problem is self-medication with unsupervised pharmaceutical therapies, the survey said.

Medical professionals and pharmacists in Gaza reported an increase in self-medication with behaviour control substances during and post-conflict in Gaza.

Relief efforts in Gaza have intensified post-conflict, although 85 percent of men and 88 percent of women surveyed reported that they had not been involved in any consultation on the planning or design of humanitarian assistance in their community.

Women involved in planning relief overwhelmingly reported it was a male-dominated effort.

UNIFEM believes the survey could be used as a tool for implementing gender-responsive aid programmes.

Some 60 percent of respondents said they had received food aid since the end of the war, although about half of the recipients expressed dissatisfaction with the assistance, stating it was insufficient or inappropriate to their needs.

About 20 percent of households said boys’ needs were prioritised when there was a food shortage, and elderly men and women were most at risk of not getting adequate food.

The Israeli offensive – ostensibly in retaliation for continued Hamas rocket-fire from Gaza into Israel – began on 27 December 2008 and ended on 18 January.

(IRIN News)

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