Israel Bombs Health Service in Gaza January 10, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, War.
Tags: belfast, gaza, gaza city, gaza mental health, gaza siege, israeli bombing, israeli bombs, mental health, patricia campbell, ramallah, roger hollander, siege mental health, trauma, trauma related illness, west bank
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by Patricia Campbell – Northern Ireland
I felt great sadness when I learned the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) building was destroyed by Israeli bomber jets on New Year’s Eve.
The four-story building overlooks the Mediterranean Sea in the northern part of Gaza City. With 150 employees, the Programme is supported by international donors and was fast becoming a centre of excellence in providing psychological therapies and treatment of trauma-related illnesses.
In June, 2007, Israel imposed a siege on Gaza, allowing no one in or out of the area without its permission.
Last October, the World Health Organization and the GCMHP organized a conference, “Siege and Mental Health – Walls vs Bridges.” Health workers from all over the world attended to share their expertise on how a siege can affect mental health.
As a Community Psychiatric Nurse working in Belfast, I was scheduled to present a paper showing how 30 years of war in Northern Ireland has damaged minds and generated major mental illness.
The conference participants were denied access to Gaza, despite our protest at the Erez border. To get around this problem, the conference was conducted by video link between Ramallah City in the West Bank and participants in Gaza.
After the conference, I maintained contact with GCMHP staff. I looked forward to a continuing exchange of ideas and learning from one another. I was highly impressed with their innovative and progressive service delivery, their empowerment programmes, their attention to mental health and staff training needs. I had high hopes that we in Belfast could follow by example.
The loss of the GCMHP is especially acute as the death toll rises in Gaza and hundreds of thousands of people are severely traumatized.
After viewing the destroyed building, Dr Ahmad Abu Tawahina, the Director of the GCMHP, announced that the Programme was suspending its services indefinitely because “every metre traveled is a risk, as Israeli air strikes continue over Gaza.”
Israel targets medical personnel
On 31 December, medical crews attempting to treat a wounded victim from Jabal Kashif in northeast Gaza were hit by helicopter fire. Dr. Ihab Madhun, medic Muhammad Abu Hasireh and the injured victim were all killed.
On January 3, after the home of the Dabbabish family in Sheikh Radwan was bombed, a medical crew entered to evacuate the wounded. The house was bombed again, and medic Ayyad Ahmad was critically wounded.
On January 4, an ambulance belonging to the Al Awda Hospital in Beit Lahiya was hit by helicopter fire. Arfa Abd al Daim, a senior volunteer medic was killed and two other medical personnel were critically injured.
On January 4, a tank fired on an ambulance attempting to evacuate a family in Tel Alhawa. Inass Fadil Naim, Yassir Shabir and Rifaat Abdel Al were all killed.
Our first priority must be to stop Israel’s barbaric war. Our second priority is to rebuild Gaza and the GCMHP.
Demand that your government press for an immediate stop to the Israeli bombing.
Join a protest at the Israeli or American consulate nearest you.
Patricia Campbell works as a community psychiatric nurse in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is also president of the Independent Workers Union of Ireland and a founder of the UNIVERSI health workers’ union.