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Enough is enough: A nurse’s plea from Al-Shifa Hospital

From Gaza, MSF nurse Mohammad Hawajreh shares what it’s like working inside the Strip’s largest hospital right now, while comforting his family during long nights of bombardment.

MSF nurse Mohammad Hawajreh treats a child at the burns clinic in Gaza.

MSF nurse Mohammad Hawajreh cleans the wounds of a young boy injured in an airstrike at the MSF Burns Clinic in Gaza. | Palestine 2023 © MSF

Mohammad Hawajreh is a Palestinian nurse from Gaza who has worked with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) for seven years. Mohammad’s home was destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, and he is sheltering with his family at MSF’s office. Every day, for a month, Mohammad has worked tirelessly around the clock at Al-Shifa Hospital—the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip—responding to mass casualty on top of mass casualty, trying to save lives in the most unimaginable conditions. Last week, he described what he could of the horrors he is witnessing.
By Mohammad Hawajreh, MSF nurse in Gaza

The situation inside Al-Shifa is unbelievable. When we hear ambulances or bombing, we go directly to Al-Shifa, even in the middle of the night. Every day, every hour, every moment—we receive casualties. Hundreds of casualties every day.

When people first come to the hospital, we receive them in the triage room. We try to stop the bleeding, cover the wounds, and keep them alive. Most of the patients are children and women. The types of wounds are unbelievable: shrapnel wounds on their faces, all over their bodies; bones exposed; internal bleeding after being under the rubble for hours; deep burns—40 to 70 percent of the body. Most of the wounds are infected. It's terrifying to express.

A scene of desperation inside Al-Shifa Hospital 

We don't have enough supplies. We don't have enough material, like gauze and bandages, even medications. We don't have enough painkillers, so people are suffering while we're giving medical care. The intensive care unit (ICU) is full of patients, so we’re treating patients on the floor. There are more than 2,000 patients on the waiting list for urgent surgery—emergency surgeries, plastic surgeries, orthopedic surgeries

You work 24 hours, but the number of patients is so high you cannot keep up. Though, we keep going. Thousands of people are sheltering at Al-Shifa. People who evacuated from the north or lost their homes in airstrikes flocked to the hospital to try and seek safety. There are people everywhere—no hygiene, no water to drink, no food. They lost their homes. They haven’t been able to bathe for 24 days. It's a health catastrophe.

View inside Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza
Teams at Al-Shifa Hospital triage and treat patients on October 19, after an airstrike. Palestine 2023 © MSF

Strong enough to keep going

I come back to the office in the evening to see my kids. I calm them down when they hear the bombing—especially at night. Some days I go to Al-Shifa without sleep after staying up all night calming them down. It's difficult. There are no words to express my feelings.

But we are nurses and doctors, so we must be there at the front line. We cannot stay away and just watch, even if there is no guarantee of safety. It's a humanitarian job. We are strong enough to keep going, to keep giving our hands, our support. We are here to save lives.

My only message is this: Enough is enough. We ask for a ceasefire. Stop killing civilians, stop killing children, stop killing innocent people. Protect the hospitals, protect the medical staff. That's it.

MSF staff in scrubs and white vests outside Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza on October 24.
Members of MSF's team outside Al-Shifa Hospital on October 24. Palestine 2023 © MSF

How MSF is responding to the war in Gaza