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World Mental Health Day 2021 – Palestine refugee youth helping heal their communities, one camp at a time

According to Huda, the variety of activities and games available at KKC greatly contributed to resolving behavioral problems, especially behaviors related to bullying. “As a counselor, I understand that the stressful time children in Gaza went through during the May conflict caused psychological trauma,” she noted. Some 256 Palestinians were killed during the devastating 11-day assault on Gaza in May. This included 66 children and – at the height of the attack – 113,000 were displaced. The lasting impact of this latest round of violence builds on already existing trauma from previous assaults and ongoing blockades on the Gaza Strip. The more than two million Palestinians who call Gaza home have lived through four wars in the last thirteen years and this latest assault added another layer of psychological distress on an already traumatized population. An alarming number of the population of Gaza, almost 600,000 of whom are children and youth, display symptoms of severe distress and are at risk of developing mental health conditions and display symptoms of severe distress. UNRWA has implemented mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programming to mitigate the mental health costs arising from the increased need for mental health support and being born by residents of Gaza. This includes individual and group counseling sessions, hotlines for mental health support, afterschool sessions, and the Keeping Kids Cool (KKC) summer camp activities that ran in Gaza throughout July 2021, targeting 150,000 children. This World Mental Health Day, UNRWA underscores the importance of a life lived in dignity and free of the violence of war, remembering that the right to health, education and a dignified life are clearly enshrined in international human rights law. UNRWA also lauds the valiant efforts of mental health care professionals like those who are on the frontlines of service provision in Gaza. Many of them were involved in this year’s Gaza Keeping Kids Cook summer activities, providing vital psychosocial support to tens of thousands of traumatized children. Huda Karret, a school counselor, was proud to work with KKC this past summer. “Helping to put a smile on children’s faces feels so good,” she said. “KKC activities helped children alleviate the psychological pressure they feel.” News Mobilization Network

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