- Title: The trauma helpline taking calls from Gaza during conflict and beyond
- Date: 14th June 2021
- Summary: RAMALLAH, WEST BANK (JUNE 9, 2021) (REUTERS) SAWA COUNSELLOR ON THE PHONE, SAYING IN ARABIC: "Sawa, hello, you've reached the line for the Sawa organisation, the support line via telephone, how can I help you today?"
- Embargoed: 28th June 2021 12:41
- Keywords: Gaza Palestinians helpline trauma war
- Location: RAMALLAH, WEST BANK / GAZA CITY, KHAN YOUNIS AND BEIT HANOUN, GAZA / ISRAEL-GAZA BORDER, ISRAEL / INTERNET
- City: RAMALLAH, WEST BANK / GAZA CITY, KHAN YOUNIS AND BEIT HANOUN, GAZA / ISRAEL-GAZA BORDER, ISRAEL / INTERNET
- Country: Palestinian Territories
- Topics: Conflicts/War/Peace,Middle East
- Reuters ID: LVA002EHDIA1H
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The distressed caller was on the line from Gaza when an explosion drowned out his voice and the line suddenly went dead.
For counsellors at the Sawa 121 (One-to-One) Palestinian helpline in Ramallah, it is a grimly familiar end to calls in times of conflict, most recently during the 11-day hostilities between Israel and Hamas in May.
Sawa - "Together" in Arabic - fielded around 37,000 calls during the May violence, twice its usual workload, with concerns such as safety, missing children and unexploded bombs added to the helpline's usual pleas for help with domestic abuse, child protection and mental health problems.
Some callers were seeking shelter during Israeli airstrikes or used Sawa's free line to pass messages to their family because they had no phone credit, counsellors said.
An Egyptian-brokered truce on May 21 ended the fighting which saw 253 Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes and 13 people in Israel killed by Palestinian rockets and missiles, medical officials said.
Jalal Khader, director of Sawa in Ramallah, said that although the fighting has stopped, the real support work is only just beginning after four wars between Israel and Gaza militants since 2008.
"It's as if the trauma and crises that they went through during the previous wars came back again because they're living the same crisis that they've lived through before," said Khader.
Relying on funding from humanitarian organizations including MÃ©decins du Monde Switzerland and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), Sawa will continue to provide emergency post-war support for another six months.
Staff are limited to answering the phones for a maximum of 20 hours a week to prevent counsellor burnout, but Sawa media coordinator Noor Nazzal said the gratitude of callers made a difficult job worthwhile.
"When we leave and hear the feedback that they give us - how much you gave me relief, how much you reassured me and gave me hope for life, this gives us the motivation to offer something even better and continue with our work," she said.
Sawa website: www.Sawa.ps
(Production: Adel Abu Nemeh, Zainah El-Haroun, Stephen Farrell )
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