A Review of UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme in the Gaza Strip

Yumi Terahata
يومي تيرهاتا
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Al-Quds University
the largest provider of psychosocial services in the Gaza Strip, UNRWA faces the challenge of having to serve a large refugee population with limited resources, including caregivers with limited qualifications and training. This study focused on getting a better understanding of the existing documented information provided by UNRWA’s Community Mental Health Programme’s (CMHP) to inform on the psychosocial/mental health needs of CMHP’s client population in the Gaza Strip and the effectiveness of services provided by CMHP, specifically through a content-analysis of the CMHP database. Specific methodological approaches included: a literary review to inform documentation review, a review of all CMHP monthly reports, and a detailed analysis of the CMHP database focusing on individual counseling session records. Data quality issues included lack of quality checks, weak database design, and lack of focused data analysis. Analysis revealed trends in CMHP services, such as significant differences in client population for UNRWA health centers and schools including client age group, reported problems, and referral sources. An extensive mixed-methods (quantitative and qualitative) questionnaire survey of all CMHP counselors was also conducted to explore counselors’ views on training, their work environment, perceived needs and job satisfaction. Counselors’ responses to various items on the questionnaire seemed to suggest that in general counselors felt themselves to be part of an isolated and perhaps undervalued department (CMHP), as evidenced by requests for psychological support and encouragement for counselors themselves, calls for better communication between and cooperation with different UNRWA departments, more interaction with local organizations, and more PR about CMHP to the public through written material and promotional activities. The collection of training topics requested by counselors ranged from pronunciation problems to psychological testing, raising questions as to exactly what counselors expected themselves to be able to handle in their work and whether or not these expectations are realistic. Results of this study indicated that CMHP’s database system needed to be systematically redesigned to be more practical for the fieldworkers who collect the data, including simplified data fields and clearer definitions of terminology. A thorough assessment should be undertaken to establish necessary and feasible data to be collected, based on clear and measurable indicators. Data quality should be regularly checked at various stages of data collection and processing. More specific and context-oriented analysis should be done by CMHP, utilizing all available data fields.