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Source: World Health Organization (WHO)
10 July 2003

Note for the Press
From the WHO Office for the West Bank and Gaza


Focus on development of community mental health programs

Ramallah, West Bank. Under the slogan “Mental health for all – policies and strategies” the Ministry of Health of the Palestinian National Authority and the World Health Organization (WHO) have, over the past four days, brought local and international mental health experts together to evaluate existing services for people with mental health problems in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) and to find ways to improve them.

According to the Ministry of Health, during the last two years the number of people with mental disorders in the oPt has doubled. Mainly children under 18 suffer from trauma-related disorders. “We need to put mental health higher on the agenda in order to respond to the crisis and provide patients with better treatment and care” said Dr Yousef Awadallah, representing the Minister of Health of the Palestinian National Authority, at the opening of the conference.

Ongoing violence, closures and curfews and the occupation of most Palestinian self-rule areas are among the main causes of psychological distress among the population. “Traumatic events such as shootings, death or injury of a family member, the demolition of homes and house-to-house searches leave permanent scars in the minds of the people,” said Dr. Eyad Sarraj, Chairman of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, “we need to establish more community based mental health programs that can help those unable to cope with their experiences of violence.”

Representatives from the Ministry of Health and local and international mental health experts and NGOs working in the oPt agreed on the urgent need to implement a comprehensive mental health policy in the oPt. This would involve increasing the number of mental health centers, reorganizing psychiatric hospitals, and training of health personnel working with patients who suffer from severe mental disorders.

For more information please contact Melanie Zipperer in Jerusalem, mobile: (+41) 79 477 1722, or (+972) 57 553 294, email: All WHO Press Releases, Fact Sheets and Features can be obtained on the WHO home page

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