Why are we there?

  • Armed conflict

Update: July 18, 2014

MSF sent additional staff and resources into Gaza on Thursday to support Gaza City’s al Shifa hospital, but one surgeon was refused entry at the border, reportedly because of a paperwork discrepancy. During a brief lull in the bombing, 28 patients managed to reach MSF’s clinic in Gaza City, more than had been able to access the facility since Israel's current military campaign begin.

With the onset of a ground invasion by the Israeli Defense Force and the resumption of aerial bombing, however, mobility has once again become constricted and medical facilities are preparing for new waves of casualties from a campaign that has already resulted in more than 200 deaths, a frighteningly high percentage of them civilians, including many women and children, in the densely packed Gaza Strip.

MSF staff in KhanYounis and Rafah distributed dressing kits for patients living in the south of the Gaza strip, where growing numbers of people who’ve evacuated their homes after warnings by the IDF to do so are seeking whatever shelter they can find.

Update: July 15, 2014

As of July 15, 2014, aerial attacks in Gaza have killed at least 173 Palestinians and wounded upwards of 1,263, according to the Ministry of Health; the first Israeli fatality was recorded on Tuesday as well, after a rocket fired from Gaza killed a man near the Erez border crossing. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 77 percent of the casualties reported inside Gaza have been civilians. An MSF clinic in Gaza City remains open, but only 11 out of 87 patients registered for follow-up consultations have arrived. However, Al Shifa hospital is referring burn patients to MSF, including four new cases—all children under five years of age—on July 14.

Update: July 10, 2014

Israel launched a military offensive (Operation Protective Edge) in Gaza this week, in response to rockets launched from Gaza into Israel. Bombings are still very intense, with an average of 10 strikes per hour across the Gaza strip, and casualties are mounting. A reduced MSF team has been able to re-open its post-op clinic in Gaza City this morning, and a dozen pre-existing patients have so far come for their follow-up treatment.

As of today, Gaza hospitals are still able to respond to emergency needs, but pre-existing shortages of drugs and disposables could cause the situation to worsen. MSF has proposed donations and HR support. An MSF surgical team is on stand-by in case a ground operation is launched.

Update: July 9, 2014

Last night, more that 80 rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel (some reaching population centers near Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa). The Israeli Defense Forces responded with strikes against Gaza. Official figures put the number of deaths at 25, with 180 wounded, all Palestinian. Violence is also on the rise in the West Bank.

Since 2010, MSF has run a post-surgery clinic (dressings and physiotherapy) in Gaza City, where 80 per cent of the patients suffer from severe burns. Our teams also run a specialized hand surgery in Nasser hospital, and provide intensive care training to medical and paramedical staff at Nasser and Al-Shifa hospitals.

MSF teams are currently on stand-by. They are preparing dressing kits to be distributed directly to patients once movements can be renewed. So far, hospitals in Gaza are able to cope and are not overwhelmed. MSF has proposed donations of medical material and medicines and is prepared to respond to any emergency needs by reinforcing its medical team with additional surgical capacities if the context allows. In the West Bank, an MSF team is providing psychological first aid to people affected by violence. It receives referrals for specialized psychiatric needs from other organizations.

Our work

This is an excerpt from MSF-USA's 2013 Annual Report:

Unrelenting violence in Gaza and the West Bank continues to have medical, psychological and social consequences for Palestinians.

The Israel–Palestine conflict and inter-Palestinian violence has increased people’s need for medical and psychological care, and has reduced the availability of drugs, medical equipment and services to treat them. MSF runs programs in Occupied Palestinian Territory aimed at meeting the needs not covered by the Palestinian health system.

In Gaza, MSF focuses on plastic surgery, reconstructive surgery, and hand surgery for patients suffering from serious burns, trauma, and other debilitating injuries. MSF specialist surgeons, anesthetists, and operating theatre nurses work alongside Palestinian colleagues in the two main public hospitals. Most patients are children with burns injuries caused by domestic accidents, as electricity shortages force people to find alternative means of cooking and heating their homes. MSF runs a clinic in Gaza City offering post-operative care, including physiotherapy and dressings, to help patients rehabilitate from their surgery.

In 2013, MSF started supporting the Ministry of Health on intensive care, by implementing training programs for medical and paramedical staff. An MSF medical team is working in close partnership with Nasser hospital medical staff, providing bedside clinical instruction, mentoring, and technical support.

Staff help a patient outside the post-operative care clinic at Nasser hospital, Gaza. © Isabelle Merny / MSF

Mental health support

Exposure to conflict violence has a severe impact on people’s mental health. In Nablus, Hebron and East Jerusalem, MSF teams continue to provide psychological and social support to direct and indirect victims of violence. Almost half of the patients are under 18, and most are suffering from anxiety-related conditions. Depression, behavioral issues, and post-traumatic stress disorder are common.

At the end of 2013, MSF had 94 staff in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. MSF has been working in the country since 1989.

Patient story

Fatima

In March 2008, Fatima, Mohammed and their three children were evicted from their home by the Israeli army.

“Because of what happened to our house, the children were affected. One of them started to stammer; the teacher wasn’t able to understand him.

"All three children started wetting the bed. An MSF counselor sat with the children and helped calm them down, and I learned how to deal with the children at night.

"I myself felt anxious, but the counselor also helped me deal with psychological issues.”

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