Violence, isolation and extreme poverty create difficult conditions in Palestine and Lebanon.
In Gaza, children under the age of 10 have already survived four wars and major bombing campaigns and grow up amid destroyed buildings, open sewage and a polluted environment. In the West Bank communities are mentally scarred by decades of violence and a shrinking homeland. Families struggling to survive in economically devastated Lebanon face daily stresses and hardships. And Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon confront an array of restrictions limiting their ability to work and own property.
Many communities in both Palestine and Lebanon face high unemployment, poor living conditions, inequality and politically volatile environments. These experiences have significant effects on peoples’ mental health.
Children caught in the crossfire are especially vulnerable to suffering the psychological effects of their difficult circumstances. The earliest years of life are the most critical for development, and the traumas some children experience have a resounding impact on how they grow into adults. There are also few spaces for children in Palestine and Lebanon to experience a normal childhood – to kick a ball, play in a park or sing songs with their friends.
There are many ways Anera works to improve mental health in the communities where we work. From providing group and individual therapy sessions, engaging youth in physical activity and giving them creative outlets for self-expression, to providing vital mental health medication.
Group and Individual Therapy
In recent years, Anera has worked to provide individual and group therapy to some of the most vulnerable groups in Palestine and Lebanon. In the summer of 2022, Anera provided 100 women with group and individual sessions, field visits to homes and personalized sessions with families and couples for psychological relief. This was in response to the heavy impact on mental health in Gaza following an escalation of violence.
“The project provided psychological and social support to women affected, especially after the Israeli offensive on Gaza in August , including their children from five to eight years of age.” — Psychologist Laila Abu Aisha, a field monitor for Anera mental health support in Jabalia, northern Gaza.
In Lebanon, Anera provided emergency psychosocial support in the form of online therapy sessions for youth following the Beirut port explosion in 2020 and the effects of COVID-19 isolation.
Physical Activity, the Arts and Social Connections
Sports and exercise, as well as music and the arts, offer ways for youth to express themselves and vent frustrations. Anera develops sports programs and community-sports facilities in Palestine and Lebanon to give youth an outlet for the traumas they’ve experienced.
In Gaza, Anera provides summer camps for children with positive physical and creative outlets. For young people who have been out of school for years – like the thousands of refugee youth or youth forced to provide for families in Lebanon – getting back in the classroom can help create a sense of purpose in the midst of extreme hardship.
Likewise, children can relieve trauma and stress through musical and artistic expression. Anera has organized creative activities in Palestine and Lebanon to offer an artistic release of tensions that can build up under difficult living conditions. Expressive arts are a key part of Anera’s early childhood development program. Often in the wake of tragedies, like the bombardments of Gaza in 2021 and 2022, Anera arranges creative activities for preschoolers to help them cope and recover.
Providing Mental Health Medicine
Sometimes the mental health challenges of individuals in Palestine and Lebanon require specialized medications that are difficult to obtain locally. Anera steps in to provide donated psychiatric medications to hospitals, community health centers and clinics throughout Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon. The challenges of living as a refugee or under occupation has profound psychological effects. A little medicine can make a big difference. Every year, Anera ships donated medicines to battle illnesses like depression and anxiety.
Children in Gaza Need to Play!
Activities that promote joy and learning foster healthy childhoods! Our team in Gaza recently took students on three fun and engaging field trips. These students also participate in Anera's Farms to Fasool program which provides locally sourced nutritional meals to preschoolers.