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MSF Responds to "Summer Rain" Operation in Palestinian Territories
August 10, 2006
At least 184 Palestinians —including 42 children— have died, and 650 have been wounded since the beginning of operation "Summer Rain" on June 28, an operation which followed the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier. Around half of the victims were civilians. During the attacks, twelve houses were seriously damaged and 3,400 Palestinians were forced to look for shelter because of the bombings and resulting projectiles.
Civilian infrastructure, such as bridges, government buildings, and roads, and including an electrical supply station serving half of Gaza, has been destroyed. At times, the Karni bridge crossing has been closed, significantly complicating the importation of goods. As a result, Gaza finds itself under a near total embargo, and its economic life has been almost completely paralyzed.
The 22 hospitals in Gaza are functioning at overflow capacity. However, their ability to function has been improved, somewhat, as a result of generator fuel supplied by the European Union. Material donations have been likewise directed to these hospitals from various donors. Conversely, there has been no change for the 58 primary health care centers, half of which use electric generators. The Ministry of Health has declared 21 of these centers to be in a state of emergency. Over the past five months, staff has seen but a small part of their salaries. In spite of these shortages, doctors and nurses continue to work.
In February, MSF began to distribute medicine and medical supplies to alleviate the shortages for health facilities. But since the start of operation "Summer Rain," donations have been addressing more precise needs:
MSF's three psychologists have resumed their consultations within the framework of this project. The waiting list is long. Stress factors are quite numerous considering the current environment which is marked by violence and daily shootings. "People are afraid of an invasion, of having their houses destroyed, and for about the past 12 days, of receiving a phone call from the Israeli army telling them to evacuate their homes before an invasion," explains Laura Brav, head of mission in Jerusalem.
The population is faced with energy shortages. While in the north of Gaza Strip electricity is distributed for 8 to 12 hours per day, the cities of Rafah and Khan Younis in the south are only provided electricity for about 4 hours per day.
The water supply also poses enormous difficulties. Although a rotational system has been implemented to supply each zone at a specific time each day, water is still not flowing because of the shortage of electricity required to operate the water pumps.
In the city of Cheikh Sa'ad, MSF has provided two 5,000-liter reservoirs and supplied the owner of a private well with fuel in order for him to pump water into the reservoirs. The MSF team continues to provide water — 4,000 liters per day — to a group of refugees near the airport who fled the bombings at Al Shoka and who are unable to return home. As for other needs, notably for food, they are covered by the UNRWA* and ICRC**.
Finally, garbage in certain Gaza zones has not been collected for several weeks.
Close to the Front Line
At the first of June, MSF met some 200 families living in fear in the areas surrounding the frontline and bombing zones were regularly exposed to shootings and flack bursts because of their location. At the present time, bombings have picked up even more, and access to these zones is arduous. However, MSF will strive to supply as much psychological, medical, or social support to these families as is possible.
* UNRWA – United Nations organization in charge of Palestinian Refugees, World Food Program