Gaza: Providing psychological support

Published: 11 March 2009 0:00 CET

Samar Al-Gamal in Cairo, Egypt

Special programmes have been established to counsel and comfort victims and relief workers alike.

The Egyptian Red Crescent Society (ERC) has organized a psychological support workshop for around a hundred volunteers mobilized in El-Arish and Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip.

"It is these volunteers who receive injured Palestinians and ensure the delivery of relief supplies, including food and other relief items, to Gaza," explains Dr Naglaa Rashwan, regional coordinator for psychosocial support at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“We first evaluate their psychological needs and then review together the principles of psychological support and how to help the injured and those accompanying them.” Stress management sessions are also planned at the branch in El-Arish, where the ERC intends to recruit new volunteers. In order for them to become fully integrated in the teams, it is up to the ‘veterans’ to teach them how to provide psychosocial support in the field, very often in combination with first aid.

Relief workers

Other Red Cross Red Crescent societies present in Egypt, in coordination with the IFRC, have provided training in psychological support to a team of volunteers, relief workers and nurses. This is the case of the Qatar Red Crescent Society (QRC).

"A total of 45 people have been trained and are now working in eight hospitals, where injured Palestinians are being cared for," explains Hamid Moharrar, programme coordinator at the QRC.

"With the number of injured people rising, it was necessary to give priority to psychological support not only for victims, but also for the people accompanying them. These friends and family members are traumatized too and are torn between their anxiety about the patient and their concern for the family that they have left behind in Gaza."

Desperate need

"We believe that it is now necessary to go to Gaza, because the medical personnel are in desperate need of psychological support after this conflict," remarks Moharrar. In coordination with the ERC, the QRC plans to send a psychosocial support team to the Gaza Strip.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has also launched an appeal for funds to finance psychological support for 300 doctors, relief workers and volunteers, who have been under great physical and emotional stress during the hostilities. PRCS also hopes to open psychosocial support centres to provide long-term psychological assistance to the people of Gaza, particularly children and the homeless.

"The IFRC actively supports this programme. Our role is also to provide them with best practice guidance," explains Dr Rashwan. According to her, it is a psychosocial support programme involving the PRC, the ERC and the French Red Cross.

"I am very optimistic about this cooperation. There is a strong motivation to do something together," she says.

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