The Palestinian NGOs Network has issued a fact sheet on the psychological effects of the Coronavirus on the residents of the Gaza Strip, especially those who were exposed to and still experience quarantine, which creates psychological pressure, anxiety and depression. There is a need to find mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the psychological and social interventions presented as well as knowing its presented levels according to the hierarchy of psychological interventions approved by the IASC.
The paper, which was prepared by the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, explained how the pandemic negatively affected people seeking psychological support, as their anxiety increased due to fear of infection. As a result of their rising anxiety, their social relationships were affected and communication between family and society members deteriorated. The pandemic has led to a change in the lifestyle of the psychologically supported people through excessive hygiene and sterilization activities, and their anxiety and tension increased as a result of following COVID-19 related news.
The paper was prepared within the project “Palestinian Civil Society Organizations Perspectives to Face Future Challenges,” which was implemented in partnership with the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation.
The paper pointed out that most of the quarantined people and their families have experienced bullying and stigmatisation. Some people in the quarantine centres are not staying in a space where protection standards are adequate. Such a situation has resulted in negative social impacts such as isolation, hostility and depression.
The paper continued to focus on the most important services provided by psychological and social support and mental health institutions in the Gaza Strip for the quarantined and affected, and these services are the following:
Awareness-raising and education activities for the quarantined and their families and the society as a whole, free telephone psychological counseling, first-aid for the quarantined and their relatives, psychological counseling for the quarantined and their relatives, providing psychological support through distant communication means with the quarantined and their families, individual consultations on self-care, stress management, problem-solving methods, and mechanisms for protection against violence resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic.
The paper also referred to the quick online survey conducted by the Gaza Mental Community Health Programme which used an electronic questionnaire that was sent to 15 active institutions in the field of psychosocial support, and through which the most important psychological effects were monitored and summarized.
The Coronavirus pandemic has generally affected the mental health level for all people in the Gaza Strip, and it has particularly affected the psychological well-being of those who seek the psychological support services. When a serious pandemic threatens public health, people fear for themselves and the health of their relatives. Their resulted anxiety increases their chance of infection. The state of quarantine reinforces one of the most common symptoms that patients suffer from, which is social isolation, movement restrictions, and a return to an unhealthy pathological routine that greatly affects the patient’s relapse and hence his\her lack of improvement.
Furthermore, the paper shed light on the most important challenges faced by psychosocial support institutions, including challenges related to the difficulty of reaching those in quarantine centers, the existence of a large number of the quarantined and their families, and challenges related to reaching their homes. The many requests of the quarantined and the difficulty of meeting them, especially logistical ones, were one of the problems mentioned in the paper.
Adding to that, the paper unfolded challenges related to coordination and intervention processes, including poor coordination between the official bodies overseeing the quarantine centers, the lack of good coordination in providing various services by institutions, the lack of and weak funding for institutions for an immediate response, poor human and logistical resources, the lack of planning, and the reluctance of some professionals to work in quarantine centers.
Finally, the paper recommended that more institutions should take part in government decisions regarding protection and prevention systems, strengthen coordination efforts between different institutions, distribute tasks within an agreed psychological emergency plan, and standardize services provided to the public by institutions in an organized and specialized manner, which turns to be useful in achieving and covering all groups faster, saving time, efforts, and decreasing institutions’ interventions with the same cases. The paper, moreover, recommends forming a national committee that includes both official and non-official organisations to manage the crisis and supervise the recovery phase within a clear plan that engages everyone. In addition, making sure that the households can access the internet so as they can be reached by the professionals and specialists through the social media is also necessary according to the paper’s recommendations.