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MSF in Palestinian Territories, 2008
Field Staff: 127
Reason for Intervention:
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In the Gaza strip, 2008 was marked by a dramatic deterioration of the economic, security, and health situations as internecine conflict continued, along with Israeli military strikes which reached a peak at the end of the year. The violence left many wounded, and the strengthening of the Israeli blockade aggravated the situation by limiting the ability to import medical supplies.
In the Gaza Strip
In three clinics Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) offers post-operative and physiotherapy treatment. The many wounded have no other access to this specialized care to help them regain their mobility and independence. In 2008 more than 480 patients were followed up on via this program.
A pediatric program began operating in February 2008 in the northern Gaza Strip. This was MSF’s response to the general lack of care and the overload on the only existing pediatric referral hospital. Outpatient consultations, medical care, and follow-up are offered to children under 12 years of age. In 2008 MSF teams treated more than 6,600 children. A program providing psychological, medical, and social assistance enables people suffering from psychological problems related to violence to continue to cope in this particularly difficult and stressful situation.
Early in 2008 the strengthening of the Israeli blockade drastically restricted supplies. Fearing that hospital services and access to medication and care would be restricted, MSF monitored the situation closely.
Between February and March, in response to rocket attacks against Israel, the Israeli army launched an offensive in the northern Gaza Strip. MSF cared for the wounded in its Gaza City clinic, donated medical supplies and medication, and supported the hospitals, which were overwhelmed by the influx of patients. This offensive resulted in some 120 deaths and 360 people being wounded, including many women and children.
The shortage of fuel seriously hindered MSF’s activities as well as those of the entire health system. In addition, the contradictory policies of the two Palestinian Ministries of Health—the internationally recognized Palestinian authority in Ramallah and the de facto Hamas government in Gaza—led to the general strike of health workers that started on August 30.
Amid the very fragile health situation, on December 27, in response to escalating rocket attacks against Israel, the Israeli army launched Operation Cast Lead. MSF responded immediately by supporting the hospitals overwhelmed by the influx of wounded, and by making medical donations. Throughout the war, because of the intensity of the bombardments and the lack of security, MSF clinics could not open. Some of the Palestinian staff had emergency medical kits that enabled them to provide care to those living near them. MSF’s dispensary in Gaza City remained open, but few patients could reach the health facilities.
In the West Bank
In 2008 at Nablus—which did not experience the same degree of violence as Gaza—MSF’s activities remained concentrated on mental health, medical, and social support. Cooperation was established with the other local mental health care providers and continued with mutual referral of patients. In 2008 more than 300 patients received care. In Hebron, MSF aims to provide psychological, medical, and social assistance to people suffering from the violent consequences of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially those in the Hebron governorate.
To alleviate the psychological suffering, MSF also provided short-term psychotherapy to patients. Teams also refer patients to the MSF doctor and social worker or to the appropriate mental health structure.
MSF has worked in the Palestinian Territories since 1988.