Driven to addiction, the Gazan children without hope

Driven to addiction, the Gazan children without hope
3 min read
27 Apr, 2015
Comment: Palestinian teenagers are getting hooked on Tramadol to escape the stress disorders caused by war and occupation, and Israel makes sure there is no way out, says Soraya Boyd.
Palestinian hospitals are at breaking point [Anadolu]

Can adults and children living under a protracted military rule still have faith in the future? Mental health practitioners report that such conditions will cause a complex, chronic and acute "spectrum of psycho-emotional and physiopathological outcomes".

The life of Gaza's children has been plagued by extreme despair and trauma. It is a life bereft of hope, with no apparent end in sight to the Israeli military occupation.

How can they cope in the face of such constant adversity? Insecurity and impermanence being the children's daily reality.

Children as young as 13 are being given Tramadol, a strong opiate painkiller in an attempt to mitigate the effects of post traumatic stress disorder. Many have become addicted.

Compounding matters further, one of the symptomatic outcomes associated with the physiopathology of long term use of Tramadol causes children to suffer from insomnia.

Sleep deprivation and restlessness may lead to children becoming afflicted by another grave symptom: suicidal urges.

According to the World Health Organisation, governments must create conditions in which every one of their citizens can be as healthy as possible. Life under siege for the children of Gaza is far removed from this intent.

     Children as young as 13 are being given Tramadol, a strong opiate painkiller in an attempt to mitigate the effects of post traumatic stress disorder.


Israel's systemic expansionist policy is designed to deny Palestinians political, economic and financial independence as well as a thriving, integrated and independent health sector.

Although collective punishment is prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention, this has not prevented Israel from committing grave breaches of humanitarian and human rights law.

Is Israel intent on ensuring that Palestinians do not attain a reasonable level of health which might make life a little more bearable?

Not surprisingly, Tony Laurance, the WHO's representative for the Palestinian territories, said: "People with mental illness are stigmatised and badly served by the health sector in the occupied Palestinian territory, as in the Region and most of the world.

"The programme is about improving services for people with mental health and changing attitudes."

Because of funding shortfalls preventing Palestinian mental health professionals and aid agencies from providing vital services, UNICEF is seeking to raise £45m.

The Mental Health in Palestine report of 2013 stated: "If the rates of most mental disorders in Palestine are similar to global rates, this would mean that there are roughly 40,000 Palestinians with schizophrenia and roughly 400,000 who will experience one or more major depressive episodes at some point in their lifetime. The WHO estimates that only 4,500 patients reach services yearly."

The last thing on Israel's mind is investing in the wellbeing of Palestinians, whatever their age. Indeed, the Irsraelis appear to have achieved yet another way of oppressing Palestinians.

As put by Samah Jabr, Michael Morse, Wasseem El Sarraj and Bushra Awidi, the authors of the above report: "Palestinian mental healthcare system and its international partners must place public health and human rights, including the right to self-determination, as a cornerstone of the mental health agenda."