Improving health and preventing violence in Palestine with support from the people of Japan

Published: 28 April 2016 9:28 CET

By Stephen Ryan (@stiofanoriain), IFRC

Since April 2015, Palestine Red Crescent Society has been providing focused assistance to women in Gaza and the West Bank on reproductive health, while also working to prevent violence in homes and communities through a project made possible with support from the Japanese Government.

Ongoing challenges in accessing basic health and social services, as well as severe constraints in the provision of adequate water and sanitation have a growing impact on the health of Palestinians, particularly women in Gaza. Through its network of primary health centres and clinics, Red Crescent gynecologists and pediatricians has been addressing the reproductive health needs of women, and outreach activities such as first aid, volunteers reinforce the same messages through home visits and community programmes.

Over the past year, Palestine Red Crescent Society teams working on this project have made 16,000 homes visits in Gaza and the West Bank to deal with reproductive health issues. Over 12,000 women have directly benefited from this programme.

Fatma Skaik, acting director of primary health care at Palestine Red Crescent Society said: “The community-centred approach of our reproductive health programme ensures that awareness – and action – moves beyond being purely clinic-based, and into family homes. We are making a real difference each day in the lives of young women.”

The violence prevention aspect of the project focuses on women and children in Gaza through community outreach activities delivered by specially trained volunteers. The social fabric of the Gaza strip has been devastated by frequent outbreaks of conflict, as well as the dire economic conditions in the territory. Volunteer teams raise the issue of interpersonal violence in weekly community sessions, and have open discussions on interpersonal violence, its broader impact on society, and how everyone has a personal responsibility for their actions. An estimated 10,800 people have already been reached through these activities.

The Japanese Government has agreed to support Palestine Red Crescent Society into 2017, as they expand their existing project into a programme focused on building communities capacities to address health needs and violence prevention and mitigate risks caused by natural and/or man-made disasters..

Dr Bashar Morad, Deputy General Director of Palestine Red Crescent Society for Southern Governorates and Director for Emergency Medical Services in Gaza said “This continued support enables Palestine Red Crescent Society volunteers to continue these activities. Both aspects of the programme are already making a significant building resilience among families and communities here in Gaza, and we are glad that these activities can grow further.”

Building on the experiences of the past year’s work, the Red Crescent will strengthen its network of over 150 community health volunteers in nine locations in the Gaza Strip to deliver this programme. Over the coming year, it will directly benefit at least 11,000 people and indirectly help a further 33,000 people.