In the West Bank, MSF teams have adapted to be able to continue to provide psychological support by phone. In Hebron, MSF teams composed of social workers, counsellors and psychologists have launched a dedicated hotline to address people’s mental health concerns and to enhance the coping mechanisms of people such as quarantined people in isolation centres, sick people, frontline medical and paramedical staff, and prisoners.
MSF teams in Palestine are closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 and liaising with the Ministry of Health in Gaza and Ramallah and the World Health Organization. Our main concern is the risk of Gaza’s health system being completely overwhelmed.
We are committed to providing essential mental health support to Palestinians during this crisis. While the full lockdown imposed by Palestinian authorities has suspended all group mental health sessions and face-to-face consultations, MSF teams are continuing to provide assistance through phone support.
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The 10-year blockade imposed by Israel, and the fighting between the various Palestinian authorities, have contributed to the deterioration in the general socio-economic situation in Gaza.
More than half of the population is unemployed, electricity is restricted to a few hours per day, there is a lack of clean drinking water. People’s movements in and out of the Strip are extremely limited, preventing them from seeking specialised healthcare.
Our staff work in three clinics in Gaza, providing specialist care for burns and trauma patients, such as dressings, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. We run mental health programs in Hebron, Nablus, Qalqilya, Bethlehem and Ramallah governorates offering psychological and social support to victims of political violence.
Despite the technical experience of our nurses and physiotherapists, their work is complicated by the limited access to essential medications (such as painkillers).
Complex cases that cannot be handled in Gaza are referred to MSF’s reconstructive surgery hospital in Jordan. However, due to administrative restrictions, less than half of referred cases receive permission from Israeli authorities to leave Gaza for treatment.