International Medical Corps responded to a humanitarian crisis in Gaza in late 2008, partnering with the Jordan Health Aid Society to form five mobile medical teams. Each provided emergency primary health care to civilians trapped in the chaos of military action. With a physician and nurse practitioner from each team crossed-trained in disaster mental health as well as basic health services, we quickly realized the urgent need for psychosocial and mental health services at primary care clinics and community levels that could fit the goals of Gaza’s national mental health plan.
In May, 2009, we launched a program entitled, “Addressing the emergency mental health and psychosocial needs of the most vulnerable in Gaza”. Nearly 40% of patients greated were younger than 15 years-old. In addition to screening and treating patients with severe mental illness (SMI) and common mental disorders (CMD), we are building local capacity, training local health care workers to identify, manage and refer common disorders such as mood swings and anxiety, as well as more severe afflictions such as schizophrenia. World Health Organization statistics indicate that severe mental disorders (SMI) increase between 1-4% in areas of armed conflict, while the rate of more moderate mental problems jump by as much as 10%.