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Adolescent access to health services in fragile and conflict-affected contexts: The case of the Gaza Strip

  • Abu Hamad, Bassam1
  • Jones, Nicola2
  • Gercama, Ingrid3
  • 1 Al-Quds University/ GAGE MENA Regional Director, 101, Tel El Hawa, Gaza, Palestine , Gaza (Palestinian Territories)
  • 2 Overseas Development Institute, 203 Blackfriars Bridge Road, London, SE1 8NJ, UK , London (United Kingdom)
  • 3 Applied Anthropologist, Anthrovision, Overhoeksplein 2, Amsterdam, KS, 1031, the Netherlands , Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Published Article
Conflict and Health
BioMed Central
Publication Date
May 21, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s13031-021-00379-0
Springer Nature


BackgroundEnjoyment of physical and mental health is not only recognized as a human right but also as an integral part of development, as reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 3 – to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. The rapid physical and psychosocial changes that take place during adolescence have a strong influence on the rest of a person’s life course, so investments in adolescent health services constitute a unique opportunity to reap inter-generational dividends. Yet the evidence base on adolescents’ access to health services, particularly in conflict-affected contexts, remains thin. This article explores adolescents’ access to health services in the Gaza Strip, and their experiences and perceptions of those services.MethodsThe article draws on mixed methods research in the Gaza Strip conducted in 2016 and 2017 as part of the Gender and Adolescence: Global Evidence research programme. Data were collected from 240 male and female adolescents combining in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and a tablet-based survey. This study also draws on a participatory action pilot project engaging 12 boys and 23 adolescent girls aged 15–19 years old.ResultsThe findings underscore that gender norms—especially those pertaining to adolescent girls’ sexual purity––shape adolescent health in multiple ways. Girls face increasing restrictions on their mobility, leaving them with limited opportunities for leisure or exercise, socializing with peers or seeking health services and information. Adolescent boys in Gaza do not face the same restrictions, but given the multiple political, economic and familial stressors, they are at high risk of substance abuse including smoking and involvement in peer violence. Moreover, our findings suggest that a range of socioeconomic, cultural and structural barriers prevent adolescents in Gaza from accessing quality and appropriate health care. Study participants cited the main challenges being an absence of preventive adolescent health initiatives and limited information on sexual and reproductive health, as well as drug shortages, high treatment costs, and inappropriate interactions with service providers.ConclusionsThe article highlights the importance of designing and implementing conflict-sensitive and age- and gender-appropriate adolescent services and information and promoting preventive services targeted at adolescents.

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