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MSF in Palestinian Territories, 2009
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The conflict that followed the rise to power of Hamas in the Gaza Strip in June 2007 and the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict have resulted in many deaths and injuries. The Palestinian people have been badly affected physically and mentally, but not enough post-operative services such as physiotherapy and psychological care is available. MSF is working to remedy this while trying to adapt its operations to the volatile situation in the Palestinian Territories.
In June 2007, internal clashes within the Gaza Strip divided the Palestinian Authority into the Fatah government based in Ramallah and the Hamas government in Gaza. Internal clashes persist, continuing to claim victims.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues. In response to rocket attacks against Israel, the Israeli army launched a large-scale offensive on December 27, 2008. ‘Cast Lead’ was characterized by intensive air raids and bombing, paving the way for a ground offensive launched on January 3, 2009. Twenty-two days of war left about 5,300 injured, and nearly 1,300 Palestinians, including 300 children, dead.
In response to the Israeli offensive, MSF supported the hospitals in Gaza with donations of medical equipment and medicine. Due to the intensity of the bombing and the lack of security, emergency activities were restricted, and though MSF’s post-operative care center in Gaza city remained open, few patients were able to reach it.
On January 18, Israeli forces announced a ceasefire. A surgical team and 21 tons of equipment (including two inflatable hospitals) were then able to enter Gaza City. In the days immediately following, MSF opened an emergency surgical center to care for the influx of wounded people who needed operations. Between January and July, when this program ended, more than 500 operations were performed. Psychological care was also strengthened, with a special focus on local emergency staff such as ambulance crews and doctors, who endured much during the war.
Post-conflict programs in the Gaza Strip
MSF has been providing post-operative care and physiotherapy to the war-wounded at its three health centers and through mobile teams. More than 120 patients are still being cared for within this program. A microbiology program was also set up to improve the care of wound infections and research resistance to antibiotics. In 2009, more than 1,900 people received treatment: three times as many as in 2008.
In 2009, improved local pediatric services and the arrival of new aid workers helped to strengthen the only specialized pediatric hospital in the Gaza Strip. From January until the end of the program in September, more than 9,000 children under 12 years old were seen.
The psychological effect of the Israeli offensive in January has been substantial, especially on children. Additional MSF staff were brought in to help cope with the influx of patients. More than 400 new patients, more than half of whom were under 12 years old, received psychological support.
The West Bank
In Nablus, MSF runs a program for people suffering from trauma related to the conflict. In 2009, more than 300 new patients received psychotherapy, and MSF psychologists carried out 2,100 consultations.
MSF has worked in the Palestinian Territories since 1989.