UNRWA says patients afflicted by Gaza violence needs mental health care

Anjali Sharma

GG News Bureau

UNITED NATIONS, 24th May. UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees said on Tuesday in its annual overview published that one in four patients screened in violence-afflicted Gaza at UN-run health centres, require mental health and psychosocial support.

This is the highest rate of mental health need ever recorded, across UNRWA’s medical system, the agency stated.

UNRWA’s health programmes support 2 million Palestine refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territory composed of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and Gaza, as well as in Syria.

Dr. Akihiro Seita, UNRWA’s Director of Health, highlighted the “immense challenges” faced by the agency’s health programmes in the past year: in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He listed the devastating cholera outbreak in Syria and Lebanon, regional turbulence and UNRWA’s ongoing funding crisis.

Dr. Seita stressed that UNRWA health centres in Gaza and the occupied West Bank continue to provide vital healthcare amid hostilities.

UN agency managed to provide around eight million medical consultations.

Dr. Seita said that includes around 300,000 people living with diabetes and hypertension or non-communicable diseases and also 90,000 pregnant mothers”, said Dr. Seita.

According to UNRWA, out of the 5.9 million registered Palestine refugees, it is estimated that 3.2 million are registered at UNRWA centres, and receive health services free of charge.

The number of consultations increased by 12.4 percent compared to 2021.

In 2022, UNRWA’s health programmes successfully combated a resurgence of cholera in the refugee camps in Lebanon, in addition to the highly infectious Omicron strain of COVID-19.

UNRWA health centres in Gaza and the occupied West Bank provided vital health care amid the on-going hostilities.

Dr. Seita e3mphasized that “Last week, we had armed conflict in Gaza but still all 22 health centres stayed open and provided critical primary healthcare service and fifty percent of the staff continued to attend,” .

It is estimated that 3.2 million or 53.9 per cent of Palestinian refugees heavily rely on UNRWA services due to economic hardship, high unemployment rates, and worsening poverty levels, especially in conflict areas.

Third of registered Palestinian refugees reside in 58 official refugee camps, living side-by-side among host countries’ communities.

UNRWA manages 240 health centers with more than 3,000 staff that provide a comprehensive range of primary healthcare.

“Gender-based violence is also on the rise. That is our main concern and worry”, said Dr. Seita. “At the same time, children are suffering not only mentally, but also physically.”

According to Dr. Seita, patients in Gaza have the highest detection rate at 26.4 per cent. In 2021, around 15,000 people needed psychosocial support. Mental health is another of UNRWA’s health priorities.

He noted that over 7 decades of displacement, the number of Palestine refugees has increased from 750,000 in 1950, to 5.9 million in 2022.

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