The civilian population of southern Lebanon has endured military conflict, civil war, and two invasions since the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948. Currently part of the south is under Israeli occupation forming a buffer zone between Israel and the hostile forces of the Hizbollah and Amal militias. The Israeli Defence Forces are aided by the South Lebanese Army which is the remnants of a Christian militia. The Hizbollah is supported by Iran and Syria and is the dominant force outside the occupation zone. In the south of Lebanon there is a United Nations mandate force which is attempting to return Lebanese government control over the south, decrease hostilities, protect the civilian population and provide humanitarian aid. This is part of the humanitarian mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that I had the opportunity to observe and to treat the mental health problems of the civilian population who were living under long-term artillery bombardment and living with continuous fluctuating conflict. Under such circumstances, rigorous scientific methodology in assessing the mental health of the population is extremely difficult. In order to operate effectively, as well as my own rudimentary Arabic, a translator was required. A translator does more than just translate language they also translate custom, culture and provide a valuable source of local information. Utilising my own observations and those of my valued translator, Basima, I did my best to assess how the civilian population coped with what was difficult circumstances. These assessments are value laden and I suppose are in many ways personal. My position as a military psychiatrist in the United Nations allowed me access to both the occupation zone and unoccupied Lebanon.
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