Adolescent girls are being left behind as psychologists try to rebuild the mental health of people in war-torn Gaza.
New research, published by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) to mark one year since the last Israeli air-raids on the small Palestinian territory, shows that mental health services are underfunded, inadequate and often unsuitable for girls who suffer disproportionately because of cultural restrictions and norms.
One mother told researchers that a doctor recommended she stop treating her teenage daughter because: “She is now a young lady, and continuing receiving mental health services will affect her reputation and she will be stigmatised forever [in terms of marriage prospects].
“It is enough, don’t take her to any doctor. This will affect her if people know about her case.”
Girls also found it stressful to stay in mixed-shelters with boys and men from outside their families, because of strict rules about their attire and un-chaperoned movement.
They were told off for putting themselves in potentially compromising situations, even when there was no alternative.
Girls sometimes waited hours to use the toilet because men were around, causing bladder-related health problems.
ODI researcher Nicola Jones said: “Gaza has suffered regular conflict and economic hardship, so psycho-social and mental health is a widespread but under-recognised and under-funded problem.
“Aid providers have to recognise that girls have different mental health needs to boys, and that short-term immediate post-conflict counselling is inadequate to address the root causes of the problem.
“There needs to be a longer-term vision and a more comprehensive but tailored approach to looking after girls and young women.”
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Nicola Jones is available for interview about her work in Gaza and the girls she has met.
The report is called: “The hidden costs of the 2014 Gaza-Israeli conflict: adolescent girls’ psycho-social wellbeing”.
For more information, a copy of the report, or to organise an interview with Nicola Jones please contact Miles Barter on 07808 791265 or email [email protected]