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MSF in Palestinian Territories, 2004
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The Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have witnessed a dramatic deterioration of living conditions since the outbreak of the second Intifada in October 2000. In 2003 and 2004, continuing violence in this area left behind many wounded and dead civilians and destroyed property. MSF teams provide medical and psychological care to those affected by the violence and lacking medical support in the cities of Hebron, Jenin and in the Gaza Strip.
Using outreach consultations, MSF teams comprised of medical and psychiatric experts as well as translators, visit families exposed to violence and daily military activities. Through home visits, the team identifies affected people and proposes appropriate treatment. The main diagnoses are depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and psychosomatic disorders. Those suffering from psychological problems are referred to psychologists or psychiatrists. MSF uses brief therapy for individuals, families and groups by giving "on the spot" counseling as soon as possible after a traumatic event has taken place. In the city of Hebron, MSF psychologists play a key role due to the high number of patients referred to them by the team's doctors and social workers. MSF's consultation room in the old city enables the team to stay in close contact with the local population. The team is also investigating ways to reach more adolescents and to start psychotherapy groups.
The Israeli authorities' decision to construct a high concrete security wall to separate Israel and the West Bank has made it extremely diï¬ƒ cult for civilians in some areas of the southern and eastern part of Hebron district to obtain needed health care. Demolition orders are constantly issued and implemented and the wall already blocks many Palestinians from reaching nearby health facilities. MSF continually assesses the situation for Palestinians living in communities near the wall. Using mobile clinics, teams also made regular visits to the Bedouin people living in Hebron's southern Yatta district who lack basic health care.
In the Gaza Strip, a series of Israeli military incursions have left thousands of people homeless, especially in the town and refugee camp of Rafah. Since January 2004, the waves of incursions and demolitions have increased in Rafah and approximately 90 homes have been demolished each month. MSF staff work with local residents who are confined to the area by strict security rules and numerous military checkpoints. An MSF medical doctor, psychologist and social worker also visit families in their homes. The team listens to their stories and provides counseling. They also use drawings and games to help children overcome trauma or the destruction of their home. In May 2004, more than 200 families – 2,197 people – were made homeless in Rafah after several hundred homes were destroyed by the Israeli army. The incursion left dozens of civilians dead or injured.
Many people told MSF that they had been given no time to leave their homes and others who did escape reported being fired upon. On 19 May 2004, more than 60 people were wounded and about 10 killed while taking part in a demonstration in the area. MSF doctors helped triage and treat patients at Najar Hospital where the injured were brought for treatment. MSF gave the hospital basic medical materials including anesthetics, antibiotics, compresses and bandages. Two MSF psychologists also counseled groups of students from nearby schools and met with local townspeople. MSF teams experienced enormous obstacles in reaching the hospital or parts of Rafah that had been accessible until they came under attack.
Since 2002, MSF teams have also been treating Palestinians needing medical care or psychological counseling in the city of Jenin. MSF staff members visit people in their homes or provide needed care at the organization's office.
MSF has worked in Palestinian Territories since 1988.