Why are we there?
- Armed conflict
This is an excerpt from MSF's 2014 International Activity Report:
Violence increased across the Occupied Palestinian Territory in 2014, and the year was marked by a 50-day war with Israel. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) doubled its capacity to help meet medical and psychological needs.
Tensions mounted between Israel and Palestine in June, and Operation Protective Edge was launched in the Gaza Strip on July 8, leaving 2,286 Palestinians dead (25 percent of which were children), over 11,000 injured, and 3,000 with permanent disabilities. A ceasefire was declared on August 26, but of the 500,000 people displaced, 54,000 have still not been able to return home.
Access to health care across the occupied territories remains severely limited by the West Bank wall, the Gaza blockade, and other measures. There is a shortage of technical equipment and training for specialist care, including surgery and mental health care, in Gaza. Living conditions continue to deteriorate and people’s coping mechanisms are stretched. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, daily violence, collective punishment, and humiliation at checkpoints are common and have taken a psychological toll.
A mental health program was started by MSF in Hebron, Nablus, and Qalqilya governorates in the West Bank in 2000, extending to east Jerusalem in 2011. The program focuses on adults and children who have experienced or witnessed violence (Israeli–Palestinian or inter-Palestinian), and whose psychological suffering impedes their normal life. It aims mostly to help those served evacuation orders, whose homes are demolished, and those under regular attack from settlers and Israel Defense Forces search and arrest operations. More than 5,500 patients received psychological support during the year.
The demand for reconstructive surgery in Gaza dramatically increased because of the acute conflict. Normally teams work on a fly-in/fly-out basis to perform hand surgery, post-burn surgery, and correct defects, but a rise in the number of casualties led MSF to establish an emergency surgical team in Gaza between July and September to perform lifesaving operations. A permanent reconstructive surgery team was present until December. Over 320 surgical procedures were carried out in 2014.
Two MSF clinics, in Gaza City and in an inflatable tent at Nasser Hospital, provided post-operative care, including wound dressings (12,700), physiotherapy (11,800 sessions), and occupational therapy. More than 1,000 patients received rehabilitative care and 350 patients were being treated at the close of the year.
After one and a half years, MSF’s support to the intensive care unit at Nasser Hospital was suspended after results were not as good as expected. Training sessions with doctors and nurses are now planned.
A Gaza mental health program suspended in 2011 by local authorities resumed in October, responding to a rise in needs following Operation Protective Edge. Mental health consultations were integrated into post-operative care. MSF plans to launch a dedicated pediatric mental health program within Ministry of Health structures in the coming months.
At the end of 2014, MSF had 121 field staff in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. MSF has worked in the country since 1989.