Last year APPEH entered into a doubling partnership with TRC in Ramallah in the West Bank to support two therapists working with psychological trauma in the Palestinian population. Towards the end of 2014, TRC reported back to APPEH on their first six months of funding provided under the Doubling Agreement (May 1 – October 31 2014). It had been a busy time; psychological trauma among the Palestinian population has increased due to the constant threat of violence and attacks perpetrated by the Israeli government. Thousands of families had been affected by a campaign of arrests and re-arrests of recently released Palestinian prisoners. Due to the constant media coverage of Israel’s attack on Gaza, psychological trauma is not restricted to those who experienced the violence firsthand, but has spread to the West Bank. In response, TRC deployed specialised psychotherapy and crisis intervention treatments with the 421 clients treated between May and October 2014, 76% of whom were over 18 years of age, 153 were new clients. In all, 1729 therapy sessions were conducted.
APPEH funded two of these therapists, fulltime psychologists (and internationally certified narrative therapy trainers) Wael Dawabsha and Mohamad Absi. Wael conducted 252 sessions with 44 male clients; Mohamad saw 57 clients (43 male, 14 female) in 362 sessions.
TRC launched the first book on narrative therapy in Arabic during the reporting period. The book is currently being distributed by TRC in Arabic; an English version will be published soon. TRC is the only centre in Palestine and one of the few in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) to have a team of internationally certified narrative therapy experts who are regularly consulted by other partner centres in Palestine and throughout the region.
And in July 2014, TRC conducted a three-week psychosocial summer camp for direct and indirect child victims of the on-going conflict. Almost 300 victims of trauma, torture, those with family members killed, and children placed under administrative detention participated in sport, arts, theatre and music activities supplemented by group psychotherapy and narrative therapy in three camps in the West Bank.
We are pleased to have partnered UNRWA in our work to date. After the textbook project APPEH explored, in March 2013, the possibility of supporting various health-related projects.
Of the projects suggested by Dr Suha Ismail, Deputy Chief of UNWRA’s Field Health Programme in Lebanon, the following fell within the remit of APPEH:
- Assistance in implementing an appointment system at primary healthcare centres.
UNWRA are currently assessing a comprehensive package known as the Family Health Team (FHT) information system. This is done in coordination between IT teams in Lebanon Field Office and Amman. The plan is to roll out the system in all UNRWA health centres in 2015, and will take around 18 months. Phase two, the sustainability of this service, will require software and hardware support.
- Assistance in training medical staff in primary healthcare settings in the identification and treatment of mental health issues.
‘The ultimate aim is to use a community based multi-disciplinary approach that will help in avoiding the over-medicalisation that usually characterises specialised psychiatric services, as well as help to sensitise the community regarding mental health and raise the awareness of positively addressing mental health issues.’ (Quoted from the project document.)
This project was launched in difficult times with the influx of Syrian refugees and the resultant increased demand on psychological services. The project needs to recruit another two psychiatrists and two clinical psychologists.
APPEH will stay in touch with Dr Ismail and consider financial support when timely/requested.
APPEH chairperson, Jon Jureidini, heard Prof Olayinka Omigbodun, a Nigerian psychiatrist and president of the International Association for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Allied Professions (IACAPAP) speak at a child psychiatry conference in Melbourne. She discussed the idea of child and adolescent mental health clinics or departments in privileged countries partnering with departments or services in the developing world, and it started Jon thinking. In his keynote address he reiterated Professor Omigbodun’s idea and expanded upon it. What if psychiatrists and other professionals in wealthy countries such as Australia paired with under employed professionals in a developing country? By contributing 5 to 20 per cent of their own salary the well-off professional would provide the full salary for a therapist, for example, in a country where the salary would be a fraction of the cost it would be in Australia. This would mean that for an affordable fraction of the salary for a senior professional in a rich country, a professional can be employed and supported in a poorer country, potentially doubling the productivity from their salary/income.
Just as importantly, this doubling/pairing would begin a partnership between two therapists working in very different circumstances but leading to mutual learning, a potential exchange of materials and expertise.
Partnerships might also be set up between departments rather than individuals. An academic or clinical group in each country could set up a relationship analogous to sister cities, whereby each takes interest in the activity of the other. Each would promote and publicise the other’s activities, with the richer sister also providing financial and other support.
As a tax-deductible charity that already supports Palestinian workers in the Middle East, APPEH can play a pivotal role. The APPEH board has committed to supporting a pilot doubling between Jon Jureidini and a suitable therapist working in Palestine (or with Palestinians elsewhere in the region). IACAPAP would coordinate the program, set up a website, contract templates, and document outcomes.
This idea will be presented at the IACAPAP conference in Durban, South Africa, in August 2014.
Samar Habib began a two-year term in Lebanon as the Australian Volunteers International (AVI) volunteer to UNRWA in September 2012, with APPEH as partner agency. She has been supporting us to reach our educational goals (see Project 5). In late January 2014, Alison Ford, Australian Partnerships Coordinator
for AVI, informed the APPEH board that Samar had been moved out of UNRWA Lebanon and relocated to Jordan.
Ma`ana (Meaning) Center runs as part of the EMMS hospital in Nazareth. It provides emotional therapy to children and their parents in Nazareth and nearby areas, helping children resume a normal and healthy development.
The center was established in 2006 as a small unit providing therapy for traumatised families after the second Lebanon war. The aim is to develop services to reach and help more suffering families. In 2013, three clinical psychologists treated 35–45 families in weekly sessions and provided counselling to the Child And Family Center and to after-school club for children with behaviour problems.
Demand is growing, as is the waiting time for treatment due to a lack of staff. The hospital suffers financial difficulties so a request was made by Najla Asmar, clinical psychologist and Manager of Ma`ana Center, for APPEH to fund the salary of $67,860 per year for an extra therapist. This was beyond the current capacity of APPEH. Instead an offer of $10,000 was made to contribute to the salary of a therapist and funding of much-needed psychological and psychometric assessments for the hospital library.
APPEH is looking for donors to support this vital project.
APPEH is proud to have supported UNRWA’s Textbook Development program, which is creating English language textbooks for Palestinian refugee children in Lebanon. UNRWA are in the process of completing grade 3 part 1 English textbooks and will be introducing these to schools at the beginning of the new scholastic year in October.
Last year (Project 2), APPEH funded the purchase of three computer and software packages necessary to produce these texts, as well as training in the use of the software. Now the project has gained momentum and needs more hardware and software. Continue Reading…
The Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC) is based in Ramallah and has offices throughout the West Bank. Over the last 15 years, the TRC has deployed its unique multidisciplinary approach to mental health from a human rights-based perspective and has directly treated over 15,000 survivors of violence since its inception. The TRC offers a full range of services to assist victims to fully recover from their debilitating traumas as they transition towards survivors and advocates of human rights. Continue Reading…
Samar Habib began her two-year term as the AVI volunteer to UNRWA in September 2012. Samar is a Palestinian-born Australian, so she has an enormous headstart. It’s a great opportunity for APPEH, not only for our ongoing investment in our education program but also to strengthen Australian–Palestinian connections. More news soon about her projects.