Gaza: More than a quarter of UNRWA patients admitted need mental health support

By: shasibiliangesi May. 25,2023
This is the highest rate of mental health needs on record across the UNRWA health system.

UNRWA's health program supports approximately 2 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza).

An extremely challenging year
In an exchange with reporters in Geneva, Akihiro Seita, UNRWA's head of health, highlighted the "enormous challenges" the agency's health program faced in the past year: a cholera outbreak in Syria and Lebanon, regional unrest and the ongoing UNRWA funding crisis, in addition to a new crown epidemic. He stressed that the UNRWA health program has faced "tremendous challenges" in the past year: in addition to the new crown epidemic, the cholera epidemic in Syria and Lebanon, regional unrest and the ongoing UNRWA funding crisis.

He stressed that UNRWA health centers in Gaza and the occupied West Bank would continue to provide vital health care services during the hostilities.

8 million people attended medical appointments
Last year, UNRWA provided about 8 million medical consultations.

"This included about 300,000 people with diabetes, hypertension or non-communicable diseases, and 90,000 pregnant women."

Of the 5.9 million registered Palestine refugees, an estimated 3.2 million are registered with UNRWA health centers and receive medical services free of charge. The number of medical consultations increased by 12.4 percent compared to 2021.

In 2022, the UNRWA health programme successfully prevented the resurgence of cholera in refugee camps in Lebanon, in addition to successfully fighting the highly infectious Omicron variant of the New Coronavirus.

A Palestinian refugee from Lebanon receives medical care at an UNRWA-supported health center.
UNRWA/Maysoun Mustafa A Palestinian refugee from Lebanon receives medical care at an UNRWA-supported health center.
Air strikes and violence continue
Saita stressed, "Last week, there was armed conflict in Gaza, but all 22 health centers remained open and provided critical primary health care services, and 50 percent of the staff continued to work."

Currently, an estimated 3.2 million (or 53.9 percent) of Palestine refugees remain heavily dependent on UNRWA services due to economic hardship, high unemployment and worsening poverty levels, especially in conflict areas.

Approximately one-third of registered Palestine refugees live in 58 official refugee camps, alongside communities in host countries.

Gender-based violence on the rise
UNRWA manages 240 health centers with more than 3,000 staff, providing comprehensive primary health care.

Gender-based violence is also on the rise, which is our main concern and worry," said Saita. At the same time, children are suffering physically and mentally."

Mental health is another priority health concern for UNRWA. According to Saita, Gaza patients have the highest detection rate of mental health problems at 26.4 percent. in 2021, about 15,000 people had needed psychosocial support.

During more than seven decades of displacement, the number of Palestinian refugees has increased from 750,000 in 1950 to 5.9 million in 2022.
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