November 19, 2012

Two MSF staff members and the program coordinator were able to enter the Gaza Strip on November 18; additional emergency response staff will be joining them in the coming days. 

In the days following the launch of operation “Pillar of Defense," Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) donated medicines and other materials reported to be in short supply to Gaza’s central pharmacy. These included anesthetics, surgical medicines, and medical kits for treating the wounded. There will be more donations to follow—of anesthetics, disinfectant, dressings and gloves—designed to ease supply shortages.

MSF’s inflatable hospital could be converted to function as a triage center and an operating theater for minor surgery. The hospital, set up in 2011 within Nasser hospital, in Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza, has until now been used for specialized surgery programs.

Forty Palestinian staff are working for MSF in Gaza. Two nurses and two physiotherapists are working at the MSF dispensary in Gaza town. Only five patients have been able to reach the dispensary for treatment over the past six days, however, because of insecurity. MSF is planning to increase the dispensary’s capacity so that it can care for patients discharged from hospital.

MSF is also in the process of evaluating the situation in the hospitals of Gaza in order to determine what support is needed. Given that Gaza’s surgical teams are very experienced in war and emergency surgery, MSF is more likely to support intensive and postoperative care.

“This new offensive is making an already very fragile humanitarian and public health situation much worse," noted Virginie Mathieu, MSF's head of mission the Palestinian Territories. "MSF has been regularly denouncing the politicization of the Palestinian health system and the impact of the double conflict—Israeli and Palestinian, and between Palestinian groups—since 2006. The population is suffering from years of conflict, from a lack of access to certain kinds of health care and from shortages of medicines and other medical supplies."

MSF has been working in the Palestinian Territories since 1989 and in Gaza since 2000. In July 2010, MSF signed an agreement with the public health authorities in Gaza and opened a reconstructive surgery program. Several times a year, MSF teams of surgeons, operating theater nurses and anesthetists carry out specialist surgical programs. These teams work in close collaboration with surgeons and other staff from Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip.

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