A statement by Mariwala Health Initiative

27th October, 2023

The last few weeks have been marked by overwhelming grief, loss, and helplessness. The loss of thousands of lives, including children, in Gaza is a collective failure of humanity. The targeting of aid workers, doctors, hospitals and journalists— are part of ongoing war crimes. Terrorism, state sponsored violence has resulted in loss of civilian life in Israel, Egypt and Gaza.

We believe that as a philanthropic organisation that works in mental health it is our responsibility to assert that mental health is a universal right and thus stand in support of calls to cease fire now.  While our direct influence may be limited, in the spirit of allyship and solidarity, we voice our concerns. This is all the more important as due to our location and context we are complicit in similar injustices. Even as we write this, we continue to look for ways to address and support alleviation of human suffering in Manipur, India.

Our work in mental health has always revolved around foregrounding marginalised realities in oppressive systems such as patriarchal violence and systemic violence and state violence. Mental health must be viewed through a justice-oriented lens, aiming to dismantle systems like settler colonialism. Mental health practices that are mostly biomedical and focus solely on individual and interpersonal processes disregard the collective impact of colonialism and oppression on mental health. We must confront this suffering intersectionality and collectively and centre context, resistance, compassion and solidarity in our understanding. 

Children in Gaza have grown up amidst repeated bombings, leading to severe PTSD. This is a  youth mental health issue.

50,000 pregnant persons in Gaza cannot access health care support. This is a maternal mental health, reproductive justice and health issue. 

Persons with disabilities living in Gaza are most vulnerable - evacuation, assistive devices, health care are necessities to stay alive. This is a disability rights issue. 

Basic human rights such as food, water, shelter, electricity, and healthcare are inaccessible. Other targeted attacks on hospitals and blockades constitute ongoing war crimes. All of us who work in health systems must speak up.

Following the non-violent resistance that has been a defining aspect of the Palestinian struggle - whether it is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement or the Great March of Return - we denounce the blockade of Gaza and the escalation of violence by the state of Israel and its allies. Solidarity for this resistance, and calls for peace and decolonisation are clear in movements like Jewish Voices for Peace and many persons such as Dr Maura Finkelstein and Ilan Pappe. In the same spirit, we stand in strong opposition to anti-Semitism and violence against Jewish communities. 

We call for an immediate ceasefire and unrestricted access for humanitarian aid and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). These measures are essential to prevent further loss of life, disease outbreaks, and provide care to those in need. We call for steps toward ending structural violence in Palestine by foregrounding justice and decolonisation. The world observed World Mental Health day this month - underlining the principle of mental health as a universal human right - it is time to uphold this.

Banner Image courtesy - Brown History/Instagram