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MSF in Palestinian Territories, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 68
Reason for Intervention:
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The lives of people in the Palestinian Territories continue to be permeated by violent events including inter-Palestinian clashes, incursions and destruction of homes by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and targeted assassinations of known or suspected armed group leaders. Pressure on the population caused by the ongoing occupation of the West Bank continues to be maintained through increased checkpoints, settlements, and permit requirements that severely limit movement.
A financial embargo imposed by international donors in response to the January 2006 election of Hamas worsened an already precarious situation for Palestinians. In Gaza, this has come to include restrictions on all goods of a non-humanitarian nature. Despite direct donations made by a number of agencies, critical shortages of drugs and medical materials resulted from the stoppage of international funds and increasing disorganization of Palestinian health services. Budget issues also led to civil strikes of unpaid health workers, in the West Bank in particular, during the last trimester of 2006. MSF teams monitored the situation and made periodic donations to hospitals in the Gaza Strip and in Hebron.
In July 2006, MSF set up an emergency medical project in Hebron on a temporary basis, providing monthly donations to Alia District Hospital and starting a clinic in Hebron City for patients suffering from severe chronic illnesses. Approximately 2,750 medical consultations were conducted here in 2006. A strike of Ministry of Health staff began just after the Hebron clinic opened, and MSF expanded services by opening a second clinic in Yatta as well as mobile clinics to offer ante-natal care services. Both clinics functioned until the beginning of 2007.
Ongoing needs for mental health support
MSF continues a program in Hebron, Nablus and Gaza providing comprehensive medical, psychological and social support to Palestinians. The core of the program is psychotherapy, with an integral approach that involves a social worker and medical doctor to help people with medical and social needs and no access to services. These projects direct care primarily toward the psychological needs of people living in a climate of violence and extremely stressful living conditions. Psychologists work with patients suffering from anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological syndromes, providing short-term therapy for individuals, families and groups. Approximately 100 to 150 people are seen per month specifically for psychological complaints. In Gaza alone, over 2,000 individual mental health consultations were conducted in 2006. Teams saw increasing numbers of people seeking help in 2007.
Insecurity causes staff evacuation
Insecurity caused MSF to experience multiple and short interruptions in its programs in Nablus, located on the West Bank, and in Gaza in 2006/2007. In May 2007 international staff were evacuated from the Gaza strip because of factional clashes and the subsequent armed takeover of the area by Hamas in June. MSF continued to function intermittently through a flexible program, whereby consultations by national staff were conducted at homes or in fixed locations and the essential medicines were donated to secondary health structures. In July, psychotherapy activities are gradually returning to normal. MSF in July also launched a three-month post-operative care / physiotherapy project for the hundreds of wounded people, victims of violence during the fighting.
Attempts are also being made to transfer severely injured Palestinians for specialized surgery to the MSF project in Amman, Jordan.
MSF has worked in the Palestinian Territories since 1988.