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PHRI doctor prevented from visiting hunger striker Muhammad Al-Qeeq

January 28, 2016 – HaEmek Hospital, where hunger striker Muhammad al-Qeeq has been hospitalized for about a month, has prevented yesterday the entrance of a volunteer physician from Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI).

Phri

On January 11, at the request of al-Qeeq and his family, the organization had made an urgent request to the Israel Prison Service (IPS) to allow an independent physician to visit him immediately.

This request was submitted to the IPS following the hospital management claim that it had no authority to approve or reject such a request.

After the visit was approved and coordinated by the IPS for January 27th, the hospital told PHRI it would not allow the visit, arguing that it did not have a suitable doctor who was available to accompany the visit at the scheduled time.

It made this claim even though the presence of a doctor on behalf of the hospital not only is not required – it contradicts the duty to maintain the patient’s privacy.

International ethical codes emphasize the importance of a medical examination by an independent doctor to create a trusting relationship with the hunger striker in an attempt to reach a life-saving solution.

As Al-Qeeq is now in the 65th day of his hunger strike, this delay can be critical.

According to the Patient’s Rights Act, the hospital is required to help the patient do everything necessary to realize his right to be visited by a physician.

PHRI condemns the HaEmek Hospital’s decision, which reflects the inappropriate conduct that was described by Al-Qeeq until now: the forced treatment and the pressure to end his hunger strike.

In another development, the High Court ruled yesterday that it would not intervene to release Al-Qeeq from administrative detention.

PHRI reiterates its call for his immediate release.

For further information, please contact:
Andrea Barsony
International Advocacy Coordinator
Physicians for Human Rights – Israel
052 742 45 14 / andrea@phr.org.il

(Source / 29.01.2016)

UK doctors call for Israel’s removal from World Medical Association

A medic looks at blood stain of a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli undercover forces during a raid at Al-Ahly hospital in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) on November 12, 2015. (Reuters)

A medic looks at blood stain of a Palestinian man who was killed by Israeli undercover forces during a raid at Al-Ahly hospital in the West Bank city of al-Khalil (Hebron) on November 12, 2015

British doctors have called for the removal of Israel from the World Medical Association (WMA) over claims of “medical torture” on Palestinians seeking treatment.

Some 71 UK doctors have started to pressure the WMA to revoke the membership of the Israel Medical Association over claims that “our doctors perform medical torture on Palestinian patients,” said Ze’ev Feldman, the representative of the Israeli doctors, during a Knesset meeting held on the subject of boycotts against Israeli academic institutions on Wednesday.

If the British physicians succeed, the Tel Aviv regime will be banned from taking part in international medical conferences and publishing in journals.

The move follows similar measures launched by scholars around the world over the past few months.

In December, over 200 South African scholars released a statement announcing their support of an academic boycott of Israel.

In November, the American Anthropological Association, the largest professional organization of anthropologists in the world, approved a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

Moreover, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, known as BDS, is gaining momentum in US college campuses and churches as well as in many places in Europe. The BDS movement seeks to end the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands.

(Source / 21.01.2016)

Fears grow over health of hunger-striking Palestinian

Lawyers decry court date proposed by Israel for detained journalist Mohammad al-Qeq fearing he could die before hearing.

Al-Qeq is a married father of two who has been on hunger strike for almost 60 days [Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA]

Al-Qeq is a married father of two who has been on hunger strike for almost 60 days [Abed Al Hashlamoun

The hearing of a hunger-striking Palestinian journalist whose weight has fallen below 30kg must be moved forward in order to save his life, the defendant’s lawyers said.

The Israeli Supreme Court said on Tuesday that it would consider an appeal to release 33-year-old Mohammad al-Qeq, a Palestinian journalist engaged in a 58-day hunger strike, on February 25 – a date many have said is too far away.

“He’s in a very bad situation. He fell into his third coma in recent days, and his weight has dropped to 30kg,” Ashraf Abu Sneina, al-Qeq’s attorney, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday. “This week, he only drank water twice.”

Al-Qeq began his hunger strike on November 24 in protest of Israel’s administrative detention.

Administrative detention is a practice in which Israel jails Palestinians for renewable six-month intervals on “secret evidence” without charge or trial.


READ MORE: Hunger-striking Palestinian reporter’s appeal rejected


Abu Sneina fears his client will starve to death before the ISC hears his case.

“For him, there’s no time, and we’re doing our best to make sure he doesn’t die in prison,” the lawyer continued.

Al-Qeq is a correspondent for the Saudi-owned channel al-Majd, a network that broadcasts across the Arab world.

He is the father of two children, and from the Dura village near Hebron in the south of the occupied West Bank.

A group of fellow Palestinian journalists have launched a hunger strike in solidarity with al-Qeq.

Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian minister of prisoners affairs, also confirmed the detainee’s third lapse into a coma.

“He is now very weak and has lost considerable weight,” Qarage told Al Jazeera, adding that the proposed court date “is too far given his condition”.

Days after al-Qeq was transferred to the Afula hospital in northern Israel, he received treatment by force from physicians.


OPINION: Israel’s torture method – force-feeding


A press release by a prisoners’ rights group, Addameer, quoted him as saying the Ethical Medical Committee of the hospital said he would be forcibly treated on January 10.

“Later that day, a group of jailers forcibly held his arms and legs, after which the doctors placed the IV in his vein,” which was kept in his arm until January 14, Addameer said.

Of the estimated 6,800 Palestinians behind bars in December, at least 660 were administrative detainees, according to Addameer.

Officials from Afula hospital declined Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

The Israeli Knesset passed a law in June 2015 codifying force-feeding of hunger strikers.

The move was met with criticism from international organisations, including the United Nations, and the Israeli Medical Association (IMA), which said that force feeding constitutes torture.

http://bcove.me/cowtgqwj

Dr Tammy Karni, the IMA’s ethics chief, has before said: “Those who understand medicine realise that trying to force-feed patients on a prolonged hunger strike can result in worse damage than a continuation of the strike.”

However, Gil Siegal, a professor of law at Tel Aviv’s Ono Academic College, defended the practice.

“Even the United States allows force-feeding, not just in Guantanamo, but in prisons. It’s the same in the United Kingdom. The legitimate debate over Palestinian political rights obfuscates this issue,” he told Al Jazeera.

“W\hen you’ve saved the life of former hunger striker, is he happy or is he sad? I can say that they’re always happy,” Siegel continued.

“Though there are specific examples, such as a do-not-resuscitate order, it is legitimate to save patients from themselves.”

Lawyer Abu Sneina said the journalist has no plans to end his hunger strike.

“He told me he will continue until the end,” said Sneina.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Group to send independent physician to Palestinian hunger striker

Palestinians protest outside of the Ramle prison in central Israel

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) on Wednesday received approval to send an independent physician to evaluate Palestinian prisoner Muhammad al-Qiq, who has continued a hunger strike for over 50 days.A spokeswoman for the medical rights group, Lital Grosman, told Ma’an that a request for visitation of the prisoner by the independent physician was sent over a week ago, with the hope of gaining more information on al-Qiq’s deteriorating health.Doctors are currently coordinating the visit, Grosman said, adding that the exact date was unknown.The approval came as al-Qiq entered his 56th day on hunger-strike. The 33-year-old journalist began the strike in November to protest his administrative detention in Israeli prison.Al-Qiq landed in administrative detention by order of an Israeli military court last year, and an appeal to end his detention was rejected on Jan. 16.He is one of many Palestinian prisoners to launch hunger strikes against their administrative detention, a policy that allows Israel to hold prisoners on secret evidence without charge for six-month intervals that can be renewed indefinitely.A group of Palestinian journalists on Wednesday held a one-day hunger strike in solidarity with al-Qiq.Head of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, Abdul-Nasser Al-Najjar, said in a press release the group strike would be one of many steps to be taken to support al-Qiq.The syndicate has called on several legal and international organizations to place pressure on Israel for the release of the striker as well as to halt violations against Palestinian journalists, al-Najjar said.PHRI revealed on Tuesday that Israeli authorities have been forcing treatment on al-Qiq, in violation of medical ethics.Following a visit by a PHRI lawyer to al-Qiq in HaEmek Hospital, the group said it was “clear” that the hunger striker had been “occasionally subject to medical treatment against his will and consent, in violation of medical ethics and the Patient’s Rights Law.”It said the hunger striker had been “hooked up against his will to an infusion of salts and vitamins, and blood was taken with the permission of the hospital’s ethics committee.”Al-Qiq was tied to the bed and forcefully held down by prison wardens while a member of the medical staff made the infusion. For four days al-Qiq remained tied to the bed, hooked up to the IV drip, while pleading for its removal, to no avail.”The drip was removed on Thursday and the group believes doctors have yet to re-administer to fluid, but PHRI said doctors attempted on Friday to pressure al-Quq to take a can of liquid food in order to break his strike.Despite assurances from the hospital that it “had no intention or desire” to force-feed its patients, Grosman expressed concerns at the time that doctors would continue to apply pressure on al-Qiq to break his strike. “We hope the medical staff will respect his wishes,” she said.Israel passed a law in July of 2015 allowing prisoners on hunger strike to be force-fed if facing death. Opposition members of Israel’s Knesset decried the new measure, with the Joint List party criticizing “a law to torture Palestinian prisoners, aimed at uprooting their legitimate struggle.”Around 660 Palestinians are currently held under administrative detention in Israeli jails. While the policy is permissible under international law in extreme circumstances, critics argue that Israel uses it as a punitive measure on a routine basis to circumvent the justice system.

(Source / 20.01.2016)

Mohjat al-Quds: Health of hunger striker prisoner Shoukah worsening

BETHLEHEM, (PIC)– Mohjat al-Quds Foundation said that the health condition of prisoner Hassan Hassanein Shoukah, 27, who has been on hunger strike in Israeli jails for 32 days, is deteriorating.

The foundation said in a statement on Wednesday that the health condition of the prisoner Shoukah has deteriorated dramatically as a result of his hunger strike waged against the Israeli arbitrary administrative detention policy and the Israeli Prison Service’s procrastination in meeting his legitimate demands for freedom.

The foundation, which is concerned with prisoners and martyrs’ affairs, added that the IPS transferred captive Shoukah to Jalama detention center without giving reasons.

The foundation noted that the Israeli jailers treat the captive Shoukah harshly, despite his worsening health status; as he was deliberately transported via “Bosta”, an Israeli prison vehicle in which the detainees are transported shackled to iron chairs for long hours, from his isolation in Megiddo prison to Jalama detention center. He was not allowed to wear winter clothes in the bitter cold weather and he was held in one of the Jalama prison cells without providing him with winter blankets, which led to further worsening of his health condition, the foundation added.

Mohjat al-Quds condemned the racist Israeli occupation’s policy in dealing with the hunger-striking prisoners and its disregard for their legitimate demands for freedom and human dignity. The foundation appealed to human rights organizations to intervene immediately to put pressure on Israel so as to meet the demands of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike.

The Israeli occupation forces arrested captive Shoukah, a citizen of the city of Bethlehem, in September last year, and sentenced him to administrative detention without being charged. In response to this arbitrary detention, he declared an open hunger strike in December in protest at being arbitrarily transferred to isolation cells in Megiddo prison and against his administrative detention.

(Source / 14.01.2016

Gaza electricity crisis: ‘People are dying daily’

Gaza – Three years ago, a teenage boy plummeted three storeys to the ground in the pitch dark after accidentally stepping out of the side of his Gaza home, which was missing a wall due to Israeli shelling.

Taken to the emergency room at al-Shifa hospital, he was handed over to Ben Thomson, a volunteer doctor from Canada.

Thomson began inserting a chest tube to drain the air and blood that had accumulated outside of the boy’s lungs – a procedure that usually takes only a few minutes to complete. With the power out, however, Thomson struggled to operate.

“I couldn’t see. I was trying to put this [chest tube] in, in the dark. What would have normally taken me five minutes or less, took me about 25 to 30 minutes, and the boy died … because of something that was easily preventable,” Thomson told Al Jazeera.

“That could have been fixed. He could have survived, had I been able to see what I was doing. People are dying in Gaza quite often, regularly, every single day because of the lack of electricity.”

In Gaza, the availability of light in an emergency room often determines whether a patient lives or dies. The besieged Palestinian territory has been suffering from a chronic power deficit for years amid Israel’s blockade – a situation that worsened after the 2014 Israeli assault, which destroyed Gaza’s power plant. Even before the war, Israeli-supplied electricity to Gaza met less than half of the territory’s estimated needs.

Outages can last for more than 16 hours a day. When it is available, power comes in sporadic, five to eight-hour intervals.

“The solution to this seemed very obvious,” Thomson said. “The solution was [that] we need to have a sustainable, consistent, reliable source of energy that can be stored and used.”

Fortunately, Gaza is one of the richest countries worldwide in such a resource: sunlight. Gaza has an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making solar energy an attractive alternative power source.

Recognising this, Thomson teamed up with several Canadian doctors last summer to launch Empower Gaza, a project that aims to install solar panels in major hospitals throughout the territory.

Organisers raised more than $215,000 on Indiegogo, enough to fund the installation of solar panels at al-Aqsa hospital. Islamic Relief Canada donated another $1.5m, which will help fund six major hospitals in total, including al-Aqsa.

Construction of solar panels at al-Aqsa hospital will start this month, and by June 2017 the panels should be installed in four hospitals.

They will provide a reliable source of energy for emergency rooms, intensive care units and operating rooms 24 hours a day. Currently, diesel generators are the primary power source for hospitals.

Two hospitals in Gaza, al-Shifa and Nasser, already use solar energy to run their intensive care units. Since Shifa installed solar panels in the autumn of 2014 with Japanese assistance, there have been no power interruptions in intensive care, a unit which houses 14 beds linked to monitors, ventilators and lab equipment.

“We have [protected patients] from the electricity problems occurring in the rest of the hospital, due to shortages of fuel and dependency on generators that consume fuel equal to $10,000 daily,” Medhat Abbas, the director of Shifa hospital, told Al Jazeera.

The United Nations Development Programme is supporting the Empower Gaza project by transporting batteries and panels into Gaza from Israel.

The UNDP has also installed solar panels in schools, healthcare clinics and water facilities in support of the Palestinian Solar Initiative, which aims to meet30 per cent of energy demands in the coastal enclave with renewable sources by 2020.

Private use of solar power is also catching on. One solar power unit worth $1,500 can supply a family home with electricity to power fridges, heaters, lamps, water pumps and other appliances. Even so, many families cannot afford this, and instead resort to warming their homes by burning wood and coal.

“Some leave the fire on when they go to sleep. Last winter, we had at least three or four incidents where the fire spread in the home because the family left it while they were sleeping … It was a real tragedy,” said 29-year-old Gaza resident Nader Abd el-Naby.

Amid Israel’s blockade, firewood and gas are scarce, while liquid fuel is expensive and not easily available.

“These days, people are suffering from a lack in cooking gas. Every one of us wakes up and goes to bed thinking of how to get a filled canister,” said Mosab Mostafa, 23, an unemployed graduate in Gaza.

Private businesses in Gaza cite electricity shortages as one of the key obstacles to investment and growth as reported in a study by the World Bank. Gaza’s unemployment rate, at 43 per cent, is the highest in the world.

Back at Shifa, Thomson recalls an incident when all the respirators were shut off in the intensive care unit. A young man, Ahmed, had his mother by his side, and she learned to squeeze the oxygen bag in and out until the electricity came back on, allowing her son to continue breathing. Other patients died that day.

“Ahmed was only alive because his mother was by his bedside the entire time,” Thomson said. “Empower Gaza was inspired by local Palestinian healthcare workers and engineers … This is by Palestinians, for the Palestinians.”

(Source / 08.01.2016)

MAP Gaza Director featured among Guardian ‘NGO heroes of 2015’

MAP Gaza Director featured among Guardian ‘NGO heroes of 2015’

MAP Director of Programmes in Gaza, Fikr Shalltoot

4 January 2016

The hard work of Medical Aid for Palestinians’ team in Gaza was recognised recently in the Guardian, who have featured MAP’s Director of Programmes in Gaza, Fikr Shalltoot, in their list of ‘NGO heroes of 2015’:

“I’d love to nominate Fikr because she led our Gaza team with incredible courage and humanity during MAP’s emergency aid response to the attacks on Gaza last year.” From Al Maghazi refugee camp and a nurse by training, Shalltoot’s team was one of the first medical organisations to respond to the 2014 Gaza crisis, providing more medical supplies to hospitals than any other NGO. “In the face of eight years of blockades and closures of Gaza and the stalled reconstruction, Fikr has continued to show inspirational leadership and has been a powerful voice for Palestinians in Gaza.”

As well as leading MAP’s response to the crisis on the ground , during the 2014 attacks Fikr helped get the word to international media about the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, speaking to the Guardianand others about what the team were witnessing. Recently, delegates at the Medact ‘Health Through Peace’ conference in London heard Fikr speak via Skype about attacks on hospitals and medical personnel in 2014, and the struggle to rebuild medical infrastructure in the face of the suffocating blockade and closure of the territory.

Our supporters will also have seen their work featured in the poster accompanying the Winter edition of ‘Witness’, our biannual magazine, which highlighted MAP’s achievements in a year of responding to ongoing humanitarian need in Gaza following the conflict:

We would like to thank the Gaza team, and all of our field staff across Palestine and Lebanon, for their vital work throughout 2015. Thanks to the support of people like you, MAP is set to reach even more people through our projects – including new initiatives in support for women with cancer in the West Bank, and a mobile eye clinic in the Jordan valley – in 2016.

If you would like to donate to MAP’s projects in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, you can do so by clicking this link.

(Source / 04.01.2016)

Health ministry: 2015 was the most difficult year for Gaza patients

GAZA, (PIC)– The Palestinian health ministry has described 2015 as the toughest year for the Gazan patients, who need medical treatment abroad, especially because of Egypt’s persistent closure of the Rafah border crossing.

Spokesman for the ministry Ashraf al-Qudra stated on Thursday that the Egyptian authorities had opened the Rafah crossing sporadically for a total of 21 days during the year, which allowed only a very few number of patients to have medical care in Egypt’s specialized hospitals.

Qudra added that Israel’s racist policies and practices against Gaza patients at its crossings also contributed to their suffering and deprived them of their right to get proper medical treatment.

He also pointed to the continued scarcity of medical supplies in Gaza hospitals, which led to further deterioration in the health sector.

(Source / 31.12.2015)

Haunted by the horrors of war, Gaza’s children struggle to heal

Amid lack of a political solution, resilience is the only shield available to young Gazans coping with the effects of trauma

A child outside the morgue at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City stares at blood left by one of the victims brought in following a bombing in the city on 28 July 2014

Mohammed* has a bruise on his chin. “He took a lighter and burnt himself,” his mother told MEE in exasperation as she tilted her son’s head up for inspection. “I don’t understand how he can hurt himself like this, he never did this sort of thing before.” Mohammed is an eight-year-old boy from the Jabalia refugee camp, in the north of the Gaza Strip.

He sits, quiet, on the thin mattresses laid on the floor of the living room in the family home. He is nestled against his father’s legs, his deep black eyes trained on the plastic carpet underneath his small feet.

A view of what was a child’s room following the heavy bombing of the border neighbourhood of Shujayea, July 2014

Around him, his parents’ words erupt like a flash flood, rushed and unexpected. In 10 seconds they fill the room with painful memories of blood, mutilated bodies and bombings; memories that will likely linger for days.

The room’s serene pale-pink walls, decorated with a silver flower motif, violently clash with the crude gesture of a hand slicing an imaginary body in two; the body of Mohammed’s uncle, brutally cut in half by an Israeli missile.

Mohammed winces, as if trying to fight a thought insinuating itself in his brain, an area of his body that sometimes eludes his control. At just eight-years old, he is a veteran of three wars and during the last one he witnessed more horror than most could bear in a lifetime. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Everyone wants the old Mohammed back. “He was sweet and shy,” his mother recalls wistfully. Instead, one and half years after that war, the family and Mohammed himself are learning to cope with a very different child; one who needs medication to function, has night terrors, violent outbursts against his siblings and classmates and who recently began self-harming.

On a day of ceasefire just before the end of the 2014 war, children play by the sea in Gaza city. August 2014

Taking away the ‘post’ from traumatic stress disorder

A study carried out by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) and published in July 2015, estimated that a year after the war the majority of Gazan children – 51 percent – were still suffering from the effects of PTSD.

According to mental health professionals in the strip, although alarming, this is only to be expected. The unstable political context, the ongoing siege, the worsening economic situation and the lack of basic protection, mean that even during times of relative peace, the causes of trauma are never fully removed, making talk of “recovery”, or of “post” traumatic stress, futile.

“The children of the First Intifada were the youth of the second, the youth of the second have fathered the children facing these wars,” psychologist Hassan Zeyada, head of the Gaza city branch of the GCMHP, told MEE.

“Through the years, entire families have been subjected to different types of trauma, from torture and arrests, to invasions and bombings,” he continued, adding a generational perspective to the problem.

“In the Gaza Strip we are in the unique position of dealing with the effects of trauma while the trauma is ongoing,” he explained. “We can never guarantee that the last air strike will definitely be the last one and, as you see, the siege hasn’t ended, therefore ‘post’ doesn’t really apply here.”

What GCMHP seeks to do with Mohammed and thousands of children like him, is “build resilience”, Zeyada explains, both through therapy and through a community-based approach that sees social, cultural and religious institutions involved in supporting and accepting those with mental health issues.

The fact that recovery may never be fully achieved poses some ethical questions. “We must ask ourselves if we aren’t just preparing people to withstand the next Israeli operation,” posits Zeyada, conceding that the attacks won’t stop until a political solution is reached, Israel is held accountable and human rights are extended to all Palestinians.

Unprotected

Gazans talk of the 2014 war as the one in which no-one was safe. Israeli forces wiped out entire families, targeted homes with people still inside, bombed schools and mosques. The feeling was that everyone was a walking target.

At the height of the war, the UNRWA Girls’ Elementary School in Jabalia offered shelter to some 3,300 displaced people.  When Israel hit the building on 30 July 2014, the shells hissed unannounced through the early morning silence killing sleeping men, women and children. Twenty died and around a hundred were injured. Amongst the dead was Mohammed’s uncle.

He had moved his family to the school from the border city of Beit Hanoun after the Israeli air force dropped leaflets warning residents to evacuate or face likely death. “It was a massacre,” Mohammed’s father recounted to MEE.

Shortly after, UNRWA commissioner general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, told the press “today the world stands disgraced“. By the time Israel’s army spokesman, Colonel Peter Lerner, was on TV blaming Hamas for forcing Israel to kill civilians, Mohammed and his father were hurrying to the Jabalia hospital to look for the uncle.

Only two weeks earlier, Mohammed had experienced the shocking confusion of a bombing site. A neighbour’s home was hit by a missile while he was alone outside. He fell to the ground and as the crowd rushed to the to look for survivors, he was trampled, sustaining injuries to his arm and head.

In the mayhem of the Jabalia hospital, he held on tightly to his father’s hand. Bodies and body parts were strewn across the ground, the morgue was overflowing and there were no more fridges. It was summer, the putrid stench of rotting flesh was nauseous and the blood was everywhere.

Dragged along by his father, Mohammed’s small feet stepped on several corpses before they found the missing uncle. Shrapnel had laid waste to his body, which lay decapitated.

The GMHCP exhibited artwork made by children suffering from PTSD following the last war 

Dealing with the aftermath

It was on that day that Mohammed changed. He told his father that he felt as if there was blood all around him, seeping in from everywhere, that he couldn’t get the smell of that blood out of his nostrils. He felt a constant need to throw up.

His mother remembers Mohammed’s screams at his uncle’s funeral. “I don’t want to die, I want to stay alive,” he shouted, as he clung onto her skirt. They couldn’t recognise this child, and they didn’t know how to make him feel better.

For Mohammed and his family, the 2014 war ended with an early morning Israeli strike on the home of their next-door neighbour. No one died, they say relieved, but as they lay in their beds, bits of their own home crumbled on top of them, lightly injuring the children. Shortly after, a long-term ceasefire came into effect.

They approached the GCMHP when at an outing organised by a local charity right after the war, Mohammed was overheard saying he wanted to bring a knife to school to kill a teacher.

Since then, he has been attending weekly one-hour sessions at the Gaza centre. In the playroom he talks with his therapist, draws and plays. His toys of choice are still weapons, he says. Coyly, he adds that he likes it at the centre because it’s relaxing and he feels he can talk about anything.

His voice is feeble, his manner self-effacing, it is hard to imagine this boy threatening his siblings with a lighter or fighting with his classmates. And yet even with the regular therapy, his parents can’t see any obvious improvements.

He still complains of a fierce pain in his legs, which is of psychosomatic origin, and even when there is a small positive step forward, an Israeli air strike, heavy rain or fireworks are enough to set him back to fearful and aggressive behaviour.

His parents can’t remember the last time he slept in his bed for a whole night. “He sneaks in with us and we need to leave the light on or he won’t fall asleep.” Mohammed rocks forward to touch his feet, his voice barely audible. He feels safer sleeping next to his parents in the big bed, he says in barely a whisper.

And of the future..

Despite the uncertainty enveloping daily life in the strip and the lack of a political situation that could enable his recovery, this eight-year-old still has the strength to look ahead and imagine himself as an adult. He wants to be a doctor, he says. This resilience is something he shares with most Gazans.

“Israel attempts to create a state of total helplessness,” stated Zeyada. “It aims to create desperate people who blame themselves and who believe that their lives can never improve if they continue to resist the aggressor.”

But, he argues, Palestinians are still resisting, struggling for their rights and this in itself is a psychological process that can help give meaning to the experience of loss and trauma.

“Look outside your window at 6am,” Zeyada said, “you see children on their way to school, men and women on their way to work and fishermen sailing out to sea. Palestinians still have their self-respect, their self-confidence and their self-esteem.”

On a day of ceasefire at the beginning of the war, children gather by the sea at Gaza city port. July 2014

(*Mohammed’s name has been changed to protect his identity.)

(Source / 31.12.2015)

MORE THAN 43,600 DISABLED PEOPLE IN GAZA

Gaza 620

Some 43,642 people are living with disabilities in the Gaza Strip, 2.4 per cent of the enclave’s population, a report issued by the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and the National Society for Rehabilitation revealed yesterday.

Board member of the National Society for Rehabilitation and Palestinian Medical Relief Society Director, Dr Aed Yaghi, said: “The issue of disability is one of the important humanitarian issues that occupies a large space of interest across all communities, where the issue affects a significant proportion of the total population – the World Health Organisation’s 2015 figures indicate that those with disabilities represent 15 per cent of the world’s population, which means that there are more than one billion people with disabilities in the world.”

Yaghi estimated that the real number of those with disabilities is far greater than the report shows, pointing out that the figures which the Palestinian Medical Relief Society and the National Society for Rehabilitation based their findings on are the most accurate however they are not the complete numbers.

He stressed on the need for rehabilitation institutions in the Gaza Strip to take advantage of the report and develop a comprehensive perception of the reality of living with a disability in Gaza, as people are now in dire need of rehabilitation services because the majority of them are poor or have limited incomes and need to be empowered.

The figures refer to only the persons with disabilities who were enrolled in the National Society for Rehabilitation and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society.

(Source / 28.12.2015)