Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Gaza girls face discrimination and stigma seeking mental care

When Maha, a nine-year-old Palestinian girl living in Gaza, visited a doctor to seek treatment for mental health problems she was told not to come back or she would likely be stigmatised for life, ruining her marriage prospects.

Despite high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression in the Palestinian territory, mental health experts say families often avoid seeking help for their daughters for fear of wrecking the family reputation and the girl's chances of finding a husband.

"There is a general stigma and lack of awareness around mental health," said Bassam Abu Hamad, a public health consultant at Al Quds University in Gaza.

"People think mental health problems are something to do with the devil and supernatural forces. They think that people with such problems have lost their minds and are crazy."

Hamad says Maha's story highlights the worrying gaps in mental health services in Gaza, the cultural barriers girls face in accessing care and the urgent need for better training of general doctors.

"In Maha's case, the doctor - a general practitioner - said that continuing to visit mental health services would affect her reputation and she would be stigmatised forever," Hamad said.

Maha was originally taken to the doctor primarily for epilepsy, which in Gaza is treated as a mental health issue.

Her condition deteriorated during last year's conflict in the territory after she had to run for her life when the family's home in Beit Hanoun was bombed. more

Gaza boys reclaim their freedom with street workouts


Gaza - For Bakr Magadma, and his Bar Palestine crew, their dream is to compete in the street workout world championships, a social movement of fitness enthusiasts who compete against one another in body weight exercises in the outdoors.

However, for the crew this will not be a possibility any time soon. This is not due to a lack of skill, strength or commitment, but rather because Magadma, Iyad Aiyad, Sliman Taleb and Mahmoud Nasman live on the Gaza Strip.

Street workout is the formalised discipline of outdoor bodyweight workouts which consist of exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups as well as a number of static holds such as the human flag. The first world championships were held in Latvia in 2011, and the next will be held in Russia at the end of 2015.

“We would love to attend the world championships of street workout,” says Magadma, “but in Gaza we cannot attend because of the blockade. It’s too challenging trying to travel out of Gaza.”

In 2007, after the Palestinian Liberation Organisation-affiliated Fatah government was removed by the more extreme Hamas party, a strict economic blockade was enforced on the area by both Israel and Egypt on the basis that Fatah forces were no longer providing security in the area.

The blockade has both eased and strengthened in the years since then, but as it currently stands, Egypt maintains and almost totally closed the land border with Gaza, and Israel maintains a strict land, air and sea blockade.

This has severely limited the travel in and out of the region for its 1.8 million inhabitants, leading many to describe it as ‘the world’s largest open-air prison’ in one of the most densely populated areas on earth. more

Israel demolishes homes of alleged attackers at Netanyahu's urging


JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Tuesday demolished two homes belonging to the families of Palestinians who carried out attacks on Israelis last year, just hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a new process to expedite home demolitions.

Locals in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukabbir told Ma'an that early on Tuesday morning Israeli forces stormed the homes of Muhammad Jaabis and Ghassan Abu Jamal and demolished them with explosives.

Ghassan Abu Jamal was shot dead along with his cousin, Uday, after they killed four Israelis in a high-profile attack on a synagogue in November last year. Separately, Jaabis was shot dead when he ran an excavator into an Israeli bus, killing one and injuring several others.

Locals said that neighboring homes sustained damage during Tuesday's demolitions.

Meanwhile, in a third house, also in East Jerusalem, Israelis forces filled a room with concrete.

Israeli forces stormed and ransacked the home of Mutaz Hijazi's family in Silwan neighborhood, before filling Hijazi's former room with concrete.

Hijazi was shot dead on the roof of the house on Oct. 30, 2014, after he was accused of the attempted assassination of right-wing Jewish activist Yehuda Glick. more

Teen shot Iin the chest, many injured an Ramallah and Jenin


Medical sources have reported, Tuesday, that a Palestinian teen was shot with a live round to the chest, in the central West Bank city of Ramallah, while at least ten others were injured in the northern West Bank district of Qalqilia.

Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers fired live rounds at Palestinian protesters near the Bet El illegal settlement, built on Palestinian lands north of Ramallah and al-Biereh, serious wounding an 18-year-old boy in the chest. His condition has been described as serious but stable.

Medical sources in Ramallah said many residents suffered the effect of tear gas inhalation, and several others were shot with rubber-coated steel bullets.

The sources added that, on Monday, eight Palestinians were shot with live Israeli army fire, 14 with rubber-coated steel bullets, and at least 10 suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation. more