How MSF is responding to the Israel-Gaza war
What to know about the mounting humanitarian crisis in Gaza and how Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is responding
What to know about the mounting humanitarian crisis in Gaza and how Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is responding
December 1, 2023–After the week-long truce between Israel and Hamas broke this morning, Israeli forces called for people in areas of central Gaza and Khan Younis to evacuate further south to Rafah. The MSF-supported Martyrs and Beni Suhaila clinics are located in areas under the evacuation order. In the north, Al Awda Hospital, where our colleagues still work, was damaged in a blast just hours after the truce ended. It's one of the only hospitals still functioning in northern Gaza.
MSF is calling on Israeli forces to revoke their evacuation orders immediately. Health care facilities must be protected. We need a sustained ceasefire now.
Some 2.3 million Palestinians are currently trapped in Gaza, where heavy Israeli bombardment and indiscriminate attacks have turned a chronic humanitarian crisis into a catastrophe. Hospitals are overwhelmed and barely functioning. With dwindling supplies of safe food, clean water, and health services, and without adequate shelter, children and adults, including the elderly, face a heightened risk of disease.
In addition, MSF has repeatedly asked for safe passage to evacuate staff and their families who are trapped on MSF premises so they can relocate to southern Gaza. MSF staff must be protected and those who wish to evacuate must be able to safely do so. The evacuation of patients—particularly those in critical condition, such as patients in the ICU or premature babies—is a complex task that requires appropriate resources, including special ambulances. The security situation on the ground makes it impossible to safely evacuate them.
As of November 11, and following the escalation of military activities in Gaza City and attacks on several hospitals, some MSF medical have stopped working in MSF-supported hospitals in Gaza City because they have been either attacked or are at risk of being attacked at any time.
A team of 15 MSF staff members entered Gaza on November 14. On November 16, they started supporting Palestinian surgeons—including one local MSF staff member—who have been treating an average 9 to 10 mostly burn cases per day. The focus of the team is to support medical staff. Many of our Palestinian colleagues continue to work and provide lifesaving care, while the most basic protections for hospitals and medical personnel are not guaranteed.
In the first days of the Israeli attacks on Gaza, MSF was able to continue coordinating medical activities, with one functioning MSF clinic in Gaza City and continued support for Al-Awda Hospital, Nasser Hospital, and the Indonesian hospital in Gaza. At Al-Shifa Hospital, we scaled up our response by opening an operational theater on October 10 and boosting donations.
On October 13, MSF made the difficult decision to move our international medical staff to the south of Gaza, following Israel’s evacuation order. Between the relentless bombing, the impossibility of delivering fresh supplies, the evacuation of the international team, and the need to prioritize our Palestinian colleagues’ safety above anything else, we have since been unable to coordinate our activities and run our projects as we know them, thus our activities are currently limited. However, some of our Palestinian colleagues remain in Gaza and continue to provide care to the wounded at MSF-supported facilities and collaborate with local health care workers.
At Al-Awda Hospital, we’re working with a team of seven nurses and doctors in MSF’s inpatient department, using the remaining medical supply stock in our warehouse. We are also donating medical stock to support local health authorities. A donation of $1 million worth of supplies was made in the week beginning October 16 to Al-Shifa Hospital.
A donation of 26 tons of medical equipment from MSF and the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in El Arish, Egypt, on October 29. We have to be able to move medical supplies and personnel into Gaza immediately to be able to respond to the desperate needs on the ground.
On November 1, all internationally mobile MSF staff who had been unable to leave the Gaza Strip since October 7 successfully crossed the Egyptian border via the Rafah crossing. This occurred following negotiations for foreign passport holders and international aid workers to cross.
MSF is committed to supporting the people affected by Israel’s heavy bombardment and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza. We want to be able to access people in need of medical care and provide lifesaving humanitarian services. To do this, we need an immediate ceasefire, the ability to bring urgent supplies and personnel into Gaza, and basic guarantees of safety.
MSF does not currently run medical programs in Israel. This is because we focus on filling the greatest gaps in health care, and Israel has strong emergency and health systems. MSF has offered its support to Israeli hospitals treating large numbers of casualties following attacks by Hamas militants on October 7.
MSF teams have been working in Palestine since 1989. In Gaza, we provide medical care and support for a health system that urgently lacks both medical personnel and supplies. Prior to the current conflict, we had teams in three hospitals and several outpatient clinics offering reconstructive surgery and comprehensive care for people suffering from burns and trauma.
In the West Bank, our work includes psychological and psychiatric services for people affected by violence, support for community health centers and emergency response planning, and basic health care through our clinics, in addition to support for Jenin hospital.
In Hebron, our medical team has performed phone assessments among Palestinian residents and the displaced population, and has referred patients in need of medical or mental health care, as well as social services. We continue to provide mental health services including psychological first aid, counseling, and psychotherapy to affected communities, often remotely.
Our team also continues to assess the situation in hospitals and has already provided donations to Alia Hospital in Hebron, including surgical kits. We also donated first aid kits to community focal points in Beit Omar, Al Rshaydeh, and to the emergency care center in Um El Khair.
In Nablus, MSF teams are conducting psychological first aid group sessions in three districts.
In Jenin, there are more than 400 Gazans living in five centers, where the local community and Ministry of Health are helping with clothes, food, and phone cards. Many people need mental health support as they learn the fate of family members in Gaza. We’re offering accompaniment, information, medication for people living with chronic conditions, and transportation to health centers for Gazans.
On October 25, an airstrike hit Jenin refugee camp. MSF teams received multiple critically injured patients at Jenin hospital, where our doctors are providing lifesaving medical care.
Our team is also preparing for mass casualty and emergency responses. In anticipation of roadblocks during active hostilities, we have donated drugs and equipment to seven primary health care centers so they can respond to emergencies, including deliveries. In the refugee camps of Nur Shams in Tulkarem and Jenin Camp, we donated first aid bags to volunteer paramedics so they can stabilize patients during outbreaks of violence and keep them alive until they can reach a hospital.
Our teams in Egypt are ready to send more medical supplies into Gaza if allowed to safely do so. We are also in contact with the Egyptian authorities and the relevant actors in Egypt to start activities in Egypt to provide health care for injured and sick Palestinians allowed to exit Gaza.
Left: A donation of 26 tons of medical equipment from MSF and the World Health Organization (WHO) arrives in El Arish, Egypt, on October 29.
Some 2.3 million people are currently trapped in Gaza, where the current heavy bombardment and indiscriminate attacks have turned a chronic humanitarian crisis into a catastrophe. With dwindling supplies of safe food, clean water, and health services, and without adequate shelter, children and adults, including the elderly, face a heightened risk of disease. Hospitals are overwhelmed and barely functioning at this stage.
Since November 10, hospitals in Gaza have been under attack, with patients, medical staff, and displaced civilians trapped under fire.
According to OCHA, 25 hospitals and 52 health care centers are out of service. The hospitals that remain operational are running out of fuel, electricity, medications, and medical supplies as more patients continue to pour in. In addition, 55 ambulances have been damaged, and at least 45 percent of housing units have been destroyed or damaged.
The lack of fuel and electricity is a death sentence for thousands of patients whose survival depends on the availability of electricity, such as babies in incubators. Al-Shifa Hospital, where part of MSF’s Palestinian team continues to work, is completely overwhelmed and has run out of space, with severely wounded people having to lie on the floor as hundreds of patients continue to arrive. The hospital is also facing a dramatic shortage of all medical supplies. There aren’t enough painkillers or anesthetics for surgical operations. Stocks of medicines at private pharmacies are also dwindling. People living with chronic conditions will suffer, and could soon develop complications that will affect their lives.
Sick people often cannot even reach hospitals or deem it too unsafe. Others seek refuge in hospitals hoping they will be spared from attacks, although we have seen many such facilities being struck.
The level of humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza is completely inadequate compared to the massive needs. Prior to the war, aid organizations estimate that between 300 and 500 truckloads of aid crossed into Gaza each day.
This siege leaves nearly no respite for patients caught up in the fighting nor for medical staff.
MSF provides medical care to anyone who needs it, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. We are calling on all parties to the conflict to ensure the safety of civilians, medical facilities, and personnel. Hospitals must remain a sanctuary for people seeking care.
To facilitate our humanitarian and medical work, we speak to all parties to the conflict to request safe, rapid, and unimpeded access to civilians who require medical care and to ensure the safety and security of our staff. This is why our independence and impartiality are essential to our work in all the places we operate across the globe.
Nearly two months after the eruption of full-scale war in Israel and Gaza, we at Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), continue to grieve the widespread suffering and death. We are calling for all parties to ensure the safety of civilians and medical facilities.
As an independent and impartial humanitarian organization, MSF delivers emergency medical care where the needs for our expertise are greatest—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or politics.
We are also an international movement made up of people from more than 169 nationalities working in more than 70 countries. Many of our staff here at MSF-USA have friends, family, and loved ones in Israel, Gaza, or both, for whom we are deeply worried. All of us have colleagues working right now in Gaza delivering lifesaving medical care to people caught in the crossfire.
As executive director of MSF-USA, my team and I have been receiving a number of questions about MSF’s response in the region and how we are helping to save lives. Read on below to learn about our response and our commitment to providing independent medical humanitarian care.
2.3 million Palestinians live in Gaza. Half are children.
More than 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza as of November 23, including about 6,150 children.
Around 1.8 million people are internally displaced.
More than 70 hospitals and health care centers are out of service.
After the week-long truce between Israel and Hamas broke this morning, Israeli forces called for people in some neighborhoods in central Gaza and Khan Younis to evacuate further south to Rafah. The MSF-supported Martyrs and Beni Suhaila clinics are located in areas under the evacuation order.
Al Awda Hospital, where MSF colleagues still work, was damaged in a blast just hours after the truce ended. It's one of the only hospitals functioning in the north of Gaza after the indiscriminate bombardment that decimated the area.
Al Awda has not stopped treating patients since October 7, despite being damaged several times by airstrikes and blasts. Today, the hospital received more than 50 wounded patients, most of them in need of orthopedic surgery.
Due to the continued siege and attacks on other medical facilities, Al Awda is running dangerously low on medical supplies and is in desperate need of medicine and equipment.
Nowhere in Gaza is safe due to the indiscriminate bombing and continued fighting. MSF is calling on Israeli forces to revoke their evacuation orders immediately. We urge all parties to protect civilians and vital infrastructure from harm. We need a sustained ceasefire now.
Health care facilities must be protected. We demand an immediate and sustained ceasefire, and the unrestricted supply of aid to the entire Gaza Strip.
November 21, 2023—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is horrified by the killing of two of our doctors, Dr. Mahmoud Abu Nujaila and Dr. Ahmad Al Sahar, and another doctor, Dr. Ziad Al-Tatari, following a strike on Al Awda Hospital, which is one of the last remaining functional hospitals in northern Gaza. This tragedy follows the killing of MSF laboratory technician Mohammed Al Ahel, who was killed at home with members of his family in an airstrike on Al Shati refugee camp on November 6.
We condemn this strike in the strongest terms and yet again call for the respect and protection of medical facilities, staff, and patients.
In Gaza City, our clinic came under fire this morning. Our colleagues saw that a wall was torn down and part of the building was engulfed by fire as heavy fighting took place all around it. An Israeli tank was seen in the street.
Four MSF cars burned down. A fifth car, parked across the street, was broken in two pieces as if crushed by a heavy-duty vehicle or a tank. All the cars and the clinic were clearly identified with the MSF logo.
An MSF staff member and 20 relatives are in the clinic and in extreme danger. We don’t know their status.
We urgently call for a stop to the fighting in the area. Over 50 other people, including MSF staff, are in nearby buildings with a wounded person needing medical attention. The destroyed cars are the same that were used in the aborted evacuation of our staff and their relatives on November 18, resulting in the killing of one family member. The cars were the only means of transport our staff and their families had to facilitate their evacuation.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical personnel are treating patients for severe burns at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, following an Israeli airstrike yesterday about one kilometer (0.6 miles) away from the hospital.
A total of 122 patients arrived at the hospital in the immediate aftermath of the airstrike. While 70 people were dead upon arrival, dozens of injured people, including many children, arrived in critical condition with severe burns.
One person was killed and one was injured in an attack today on a convoy of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff members and their families who had been attempting to evacuate from northern Gaza.
The person who was killed was a relative of an MSF staff member. MSF condemns in the strongest terms this deliberate attack.
The convoy was made up of 137 people—Palestinian MSF staff members and their families, including 65 children. Since November 11, they have been trapped in MSF's guesthouse, office and outpatient clinic near Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, because of ongoing fighting, and we have repeatedly called for their safe evacuation.
Intense unabated fighting and shelling in Gaza City continue to prevent thousands of people from safely leaving the area. Over the past six days, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been trying to evacuate some of its staff and their families—137 people, 65 of them children—currently trapped inside MSF premises located near Al-Shifa Hospital. We are urgently calling for a ceasefire, which is the only way for corridors to be implemented in order to safely evacuate thousands of civilians, including MSF staff and relatives.
Forty days since the unprecedented escalation of the conflict in Gaza, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2712 demanding that all parties to the conflict comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, and calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days to enable, consistent with international humanitarian law, the full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access.”
While Council members deliberated, Israeli military operations have claimed the lives of over 11,000 civilians in Gaza. Thousands more have been injured in widespread and indiscriminate Israeli airstrikes. The damage to homes, hospitals, and civilian infrastructure has been so extensive that it’s difficult to describe. Israeli forces have repeatedly attacked health workers, health facilities, and ambulances. Over 1.5 million people have been displaced.
Early Wednesday morning, local time, the Israeli military said it had launched “a precise and targeted operation against Hamas in a specified area in Al-Shifa Hospital.” MSF repeats its call for the protection of medical staff, patients, and displaced civilians sheltering inside the hospital. We are extremely worried for their lives.
Tuesday morning in Gaza City, local time, bullets were fired into one of three MSF premises located near Al-Shifa Hospital. MSF staff members and their families have been sheltering there for safety amid the intense bombardment. There are over 100 people in the building, including 65 children. The group ran out of food on Monday night. MSF has been trying to evacuate them for the past three days. We are asking the Israeli army and Hamas for safe passage for them to leave the epicenter of the intense fighting in Gaza City.
Hospitals in Gaza have been under relentless bombardment over the past 24 hours. Al-Shifa Hospital complex, the biggest health facility where staff for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) are still working, has been hit several times, including the maternity and outpatient departments, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries.
The hostilities around the hospital have not stopped. MSF teams and hundreds of patients are still inside Al-Shifa Hospital. MSF urgently reiterates its calls to stop the attacks against hospitals, for an immediate ceasefire, and for the protection of medical facilities, medical staff, and patients.
“We are being killed here, please do something," texted one of MSF's nurses from the basement of Al-Shifa Hospital this morning, where he and his family were sheltering from the incessant bombing. “Four or five families are sheltering now in the basement, the shelling is so close, my kids are crying and screaming in fear.”
December 01 03:13 PM
November 11 01:16 PM
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