Drs. Benedetto Saraceno, Shekhar Saxena and Mark Van Ommeren, of the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Prof. Mario Maj, President of the World Psychiatric Association, met in Geneva on January 19, 2009.
They shared the following information concerning the current situation in Gaza:
- Three out of five mental health centers in Gaza are functioning regularly.
- Gaza’s government mental health professionals are working in crisis teams (in particular, supporting patients in general hospitals, and accepting referrals from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA).
- The Mental Health Directorate in Gaza has emphasized the need for psychotropic drugs and vehicles for crisis intervention teams. WHO is coordinating and following up on such requests.
- The WHO is in daily contact with the UNRWA, and both organizations are deeply concerned about the expected uncoordinated influx of mental health and psychosocial NGOs to Gaza.
- Two staff of the WHO Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse are on standby to travel to support WHO in Gaza and/or Jerusalem.
- Traveling to Gaza is currently made difficult by entry permissions by the Israeli government.
It was agreed that:
- WHO has invited WPA to be involved in the mental health and psychosocial support response to the emergency in Gaza as outlined in point 2 below. This involvement will be recognized as such, where appropriate, in relevant official documents.
- The WPA will provide the WHO and the UNRWA, as part of its contribution to the mental health response to the emergency, with a list of trained mental health professionals who are able to speak Arabic and are available to work in Gaza. For each professional, the nationality, the availability in terms of days which can be spent in Gaza, and a concise information about expertise should be provided.
- The WPA will be in contact with the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, in order to support its activity, both in the current acute phase and in the reconstruction phase, in consultation with the local coordination mechanism, which is co-chaired by WHO West Bank and Gaza Office.
- The interventions coordinated by the WHO and the UNRWA will be based on the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, available in several languages, including Arabic, at http://www.who.int/mental_health/emergencies/en.
It was further agreed that:
- The WPA and the WHO will co-organize in Geneva a three-day train-the-trainers workshop on the prevention and management of the mental health and psychosocial consequences of disasters and conflicts according to the IASC Guidelines, with the participation of professionals from various regions.
- Informed by the training mentioned in the previous point, the WPA (with, where feasible, the close collaboration of WHO) will organize a series of workshops on the prevention and management of the mental health consequences of disasters and conflicts, on the occasion of major WPA meetings.