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MdM Launches Project to Address Impact of Settlers’ Violence on Mental Health of Nablus Residents

Palestine News Network

September 2, 2013

In response to rising Israeli settlers' attacks on Palestinian villages and military activities in Nablus governorate, Médecins du Monde (MdM) started a new project in May 2013, providing psycho-social support to Palestinian communities most affected by such violence.

MdM objective is to mitigate the impact of violence, especially on the mental health of Palestinians. In close collaboration with human rights organizations, MdM also aims to limit future attacks by denouncing settlers' and military violence and requiring higher accountability of the perpetrators.

In Nablus governorate, the number of Palestinian casualties due to settlers' attacks was four times higher in the first quarter of 2013 than it was for the same period in 2012, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Interventions by the Israeli Occupation Forces, constant verbal and physical abuses, inhuman and degrading treatments also contribute to create a general climate of fear and intimidation.

From January 2012 to May 2013, MdM conducted the pilot phase of the project in nine villages of Nablus and Salfit governorates and uncovered the highly negative impact that such violence has on the mental health status of Palestinians. 'We met people suffering from depression, anxiety, symptomatic stress and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. These mental health disorders are heightened by the recurrence of violent events, the impunity of the perpetrators, the sense of injustice felt by Palestinians and their anticipation of renewed abuses' stated Malake El Turk, MdM Field Coordinator for Nablus area.

MdM therefore chose to commit to a one-year project targeting eighteen villages of Nablus and Salfit governorates. Should a violent incident happen in one of these villages, MdM psychologists and social workers are deployed to assess the situation, in coordination with the village councils. If needed, MdM teams organize debriefing sessions gathering ten to thirty members of the community. Groups of children, adolescents, mothers and fathers are given a free space to express their feelings and counseled on ways to manage these feelings.

Through the initial assessment or the debriefing sessions, MdM teams are able to identify people suffering from serious mental health disorders and to refer them to psychiatric services. An MdM social worker recalls a case: 'Settlers came into the house of a family and start beating the father and mother up. Two children were sleeping when the attack occurred and woke up suddenly. The first thing they saw was settlers attacking their parents. One of the children was so shocked that he suffered amnesia. We referred him for special psychiatric care.'

MdM intervention goes even further. MdM also refers people in need of legal aid, livelihood or agricultural support to other organizations in order to encourage a comprehensive humanitarian response. As children are especially prone to conflict-related stress, MdM will organize psychosocial and recreational activities in primary schools, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education – Directorate of Education for South Nablus.




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