Family Therapy Project

A study carried out in 2006 by Mohamed Altawil indicated that at least 41% of children were suffering from psychological, social, health, educational and behavioural disturbances. Now, the figure is likely to be much higher. This is of great significance since children form 53.3% of the total population in the Gaza Strip. That is 742,200 children. Altawil found that at least 41% (approximately 305,000) of the child population in Gaza were suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). This society is currently facing a humanitarian disaster and therefore needs urgent help, support and treatment, especially as nearly 87% of the population lives below the poverty line. Overall, the exposure to chronic traumatic experiences has led to an increase in the symptoms of PTSD amongst Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip (Altawil,2008).

Appalling levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been identified in Gaza according to a study carried out by Abed Al-Aziz Thabet MD, PhD, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at the University of Leicester, and the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme.  The study, conducted after the recent Israeli assault on Gaza and during the on-going siege, found that 98.7 percent of children in Gaza are now suffering from PTSD – with 61.5 percent showing severe to very severe PTSD reactions.

This comparison clearly indicates the disastrous effects of the recent war on the health and well-being of Gaza’s children, putting the future of a whole generation in jeopardy.

The study also showed that most of these children and their families were suffering from PTSD and other psychological disorders, and that even today they are not being provided with adequate mental health services (GCMHP & WHO, 2008). However, the 2006 study also revealed that support from family, friends, relatives, teachers, spiritual leaders and other members of the community proved to be of great help although they were not co-ordinated or planned.

Taking this into account, the project seeks to evaluate: 1) the use of psycho-education for family members affected by PTSD, and 2) Family Therapy to alleviate symptoms associated with PTSD and other psychological disorders.

The project will contribute actively in developing a proper treatment programme for the traumatized children and their families who suffer from PTSD in the Gaza Strip. Mental Health workers will be trained to practise the Family Therapy approach adapted to be used in the special circumstances that Palestinian families face in this area. Later, the knowledge and experience gained will be recorded and shared with other refugee areas in the Middle East.

The aim is to work with about 500 children and their families. The project also aims to work with international organizations like UNRWA, WHO and other NGOs in the Gaza Strip. Since this project is focused on integrating the positive social forces that can help treat trauma in children, it will begin with the family and then work outwards to co-ordinate other supporting factors in the immediate environment. 

During the project, parents will be provided with appropriate guidance and counseling workshops to educate them about the child’s psychosocial needs. At least 500 parents will be given lectures and home visits to raise their awareness and check up on their practical skills in dealing with their children’s problems. These remedies are particularly urgent now that parents are also trying to cope with their own despair and poverty as well as environmental and social collapse resulting from the occupation and the current blockade. In this area, whatever is built now is always in danger of being destroyed. The proposed project seeks to counteract this despair and constant destruction. It is a rapid response to the current trauma and works by immediately getting into the damaged community and pulling its resources together to re-build lives. This process also increases the resilience of the community based on the family for when it has to face future troubles.

Update on Family Therapy