A Palestinian man carries an injured child to MSF's clinic at Rafah Indonesian Hospital in Gaza.

How MSF is responding to the war in Gaza

What to know about the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and how we're addressing the dire needs.

Update

Doctors Without Borders responds to ICJ order to halt military operations in Rafah

May 24, 2024—As the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel today to immediately stop its military offensive in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls once again for an immediate and sustained ceasefire and for the delivery of humanitarian aid to be scaled up across Gaza. 

Seven months into the devastating war in Gaza, Israeli forces’ unrelenting, indiscriminate strikes have reduced much of the Strip to rubble.

More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 80,000 wounded, and thousands are estimated to be buried under the wreckage. Over 1.9 million people—85 percent of the entire population—have been forcibly displaced, and the majority are crammed into the southern city of Rafah, which faces an imminent invasion by Israeli forces. Water and food are scarce, essential supplies like fuel and electricity are scant, and while the threat of disease and starvation grows and the bombardment continues, lifesaving health care is increasingly inaccessible. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in Gaza have witnessed firsthand how this war has turned a chronic humanitarian crisis into a catastrophe. 

Photo above: Palestine 2023 © MSF

What MSF is calling for

The ceasefire resolution passed by the UN Security Council on March 25 was not implemented, which renders it little more than political theater. Israeli forces continue to carry out widespread attacks that disproportionately impact civilians, and have confirmed an imminent invasion of Rafah that would be catastrophic for over one million people who are trapped there after being forced from their homes elsewhere in the Strip. Palestinians in Gaza are suffering every day from an all-out destructive military campaign that blatantly ignores the rules of war. 

The duty of treating the sick and wounded—and the correlating protection of medical personnel and facilities—is at the core of international humanitarian law. Yet, since the beginning of this war, MSF has seen a pattern of systematic attacks against medical facilities and civilian infrastructure. The health system in Gaza is being dismantled while the immense needs grow more dire each day. Attacks against hospitals and civilians must stop now.

The Israeli government's policy of deliberate deprivation—only allowing a trickle of food and water to enter Gaza—has led to widespread, deadly starvation and an imminent famine. At the same time, access restrictions by Israeli authorities prevent us from providing essential aid at scale. We cannot afford to wait for the emergency to get worse before taking action. Israeli authorities must lift the inhumane and unlawful siege and allow more medical supplies to enter Gaza, including anesthesia, so health workers can provide a basic standard of care.  

Airdrops and sea routes are no alternative to aid delivery by land. In MSF’s experience, airdrops are notoriously ineffective and can increase the risks for people who need the aid, especially in situations of war and chaos. Efforts to open a maritime corridor merely create an illusion of support for the needs of Palestinians. These methods are not any kind of solution to the extraordinary humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The food, water, and medical supplies so desperately needed are sitting just across the border. Israel needs to facilitate rather than block the ground flow of supplies. 

On January 26, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued provisional measures for Israel to take to prevent a plausible genocide in Gaza, including allowing humanitarian aid into the Strip. Yet we are witnessing a worsening situation in Gaza and indiscriminate attacks on civilians, medical and aid workers, and health facilities continue. All states that support these actions by Israel are morally and politically complicit. We call all on governments, particularly the US, UK, and allied EU member states, to do whatever in their power to influence Israel and stop supporting the ongoing siege and bloodshed. 

Israel must resume issuing medical referral permits for treatment in the West Bank and Jerusalem for severe cases that cannot be treated in Gaza. All medical referrals, patients, and their caregivers must be guaranteed safe, voluntary, and dignified return to Gaza.

Wounded and displaced Palestinians in Gaza sit in front of a blue wall

Voices from Gaza

Members of MSF's team in Gaza share their experiences living and working under bombardment and siege.

Read more

How we're responding

Medical services

MSF staff have been working in Gaza’s hospitals and clinics throughout the current conflict. Our teams provide a range of essential medical services including: 

  • Surgical care 
  • Wound and burn care 
  • Post-partum care 
  • Physiotherapy  
  • Mental health support 
  • Vaccination  
  • Outpatient consultations  

Many of the hospitals MSF supports throughout Gaza have been hit or subjected to evacuation orders that put the lives of patients and staff at risk—so our teams are continually adapting to extremely volatile conditions on the ground. Today, MSF mainly operates in southern and central Gaza, including in Rafah, Khan Younis, and Deir Al-Balah. 

Hospitals and clinics we have supported
  • Nasser Hospital, European Gaza Hospital, and the Martyrs and Beni Suhaila clinics in Khan Younis 
  • Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah  
  • Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza  
  • Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City  
  • Rafah Indonesian Field Hospital and Al-Emirati Maternity Hospital in Rafah
Humanitarian aid and medical supplies 

MSF has delivered about 200 tons of medical supplies each month, including medicines, surgical kits, logistical items, and humanitarian aid. As of mid-March 2024, we have brought in 53 trucks carrying essential supplies. However, it has been extremely difficult to get supplies into Gaza due to administrative barriers, movement restrictions, and the lack of options for crossings. Our teams in Egypt are ready to send more medical supplies into Gaza if allowed to do so safely.

Drinkable water is scarce in Gaza, so water distribution is an important part of MSF’s response. We provide about 300 cubic meters of clean water per day throughout Rafah and are trying to increase this quantity. On March 28, MSF set up a new desalination plant in Al-Mawasi. 

Read more about MSF operations in Gaza >>

Overview

By the numbers

  • 36,000 medical consultations, including more than 15,000 pediatric cases, conducted at Al-Shaboura Clinic since January.
  • 5,800+ wound dressings per day at Al-Aqsa Hospital between February 7 and April 4, including 83 percent with war-related trauma.
  • 5,000+ patients screened for malnutrition in Al-Mawasi, detecting 57 cases of severe acute malnutrition and 149 cases of moderate acute malnutrition since January.
  • 109 children with moderate or severe acute malnutrition treated at the outpatient feeding center in Al-Mawasi.
  • 22,000+ medical consultations conducted in Al-Mawasi, including for 9,000 children and 13,000 adults.
  • 35 surgical procedures carried out per week at Rafah Indonesian Hospital, including skin grafts, debridement, removal of external fixators, and flap.
  • 110,000 liters of water distributed to more than 20,000 people each day.
  • 200 tons of medical supplies delivered each month, including surgical kits, logistical items, and humanitarian aid.
  • 53 trucks carrying essential supplies sent into Gaza as of mid-March 2024.
  • 6,053 patients admitted to the Emirati Hospital since January 2024.

The medical needs in Gaza are immense. Many Palestinians need urgent assistance—including people trapped under rubble, pregnant women who are about to deliver, and the elderly—and are not able to access care when they need it most. The core needs MSF is seeing and seeking to address include:   

  • The collapse of health care infrastructure due to repeated attacks and lack of supplies has made medical care increasingly inaccessible as the overwhelming needs continue to grow. Less than a third of the 36 main hospitals remain partially functional, with severe limitations on the types of services they can deliver. At the same time, there are over 77,000 wounded people, including thousands who require complex and sustained medical care that is not available in Gaza.
  • War wounds, crush injuries, and burns treatment remain an urgent need as Israeli bombardment and attacks continue. But with very little capacity inside hospitals and a dire lack of medical supplies, people aren’t getting the care they need to heal properly or even survive.    
  • Infections resulting from poorly treated wounds are a growing concern, driven by the difficulty wounded people face accessing care and follow-up, shortages of supplies, and lack of access to hygiene. 
  • Rates of infectious diseases including diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, skin infections, and hepatitis are on the rise.    
  • Food and water shortages are worsening due to the lack of basic supplies, including food, being allowed into the Strip. 

Since October 7, increasing settler violence against Palestinians and movement restrictions have exacerbated the health impacts of life under occupation, particularly on mental health and access to care.

MSF has responded by expanding efforts to reach communities unable to access care, bolstering local emergency response, and addressing the needs of Gazans who have been stranded in the West Bank after losing their work permits in Israel after October 7. Our activities include:

  • Supporting four primary health centers and running 10 mobile clinics in the Hebron area, including the Old City, and remote villages in the southern West Bank such as Masafer Yatta. 
  • Donations to hospitals and first-aid kits for community focal points in Beit Omar and Al Rshaydeh, and the emergency care center in Um El Khair.
  • Providing relief items, hygiene kits, and food parcels to displaced Gazans and West Bank residents affected by violence and displacement. In the past four months, MSF distributed 44 family food parcels to displaced people, filling the gap while they register for long-term assistance. We also deliver portable toilets and pipe installations to support displaced people. 
  • Increasing capacity at hospitals including Halhoul, Thabet Thabet, Moktaseb, Jenin, and Khalil Suleiman.
  • Training medical staff at Al Moktaseb, Halhoul, Dura, and Yatta hospitals in the Hebron area.
  • Providing mental health care.
  • Expanding health promotion activities

MSF does not currently run medical programs in Israel but offered its support to Israeli hospitals treating large numbers of casualties following the Hamas attacks on October 7. We focus on filling the greatest gaps in health care, and Israel has strong emergency and health systems. 

MSF provides medical care to anyone who needs it, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. As an organization, we focus on filling the greatest gaps in health 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. Our independence and impartiality are essential to our work in all the places we operate across the globe. We also believe that the principles of impartiality and neutrality are not synonymous with silence. When the world turns its back on crises, we are duty-bound to raise our voices and speak out on behalf of our patients. Our decision to do so is always guided by our mission to do no harm, preserve respect and dignity, and protect life and health.   

Read more frequently asked questions about our work in Gaza >> 

 

Attacks on health care

Despite the protections afforded to health workers and facilities under international humanitarian law, MSF teams in Gaza have witnessed a pattern of attacks on health care in Gaza, with medical staff being killed, arrested, and mistreated on a regular basis, along with the destruction of major hospitals such as Al-Shifa and Nasser hospitals.These attacks have left less than a third of the main hospitals in Gaza functional—with severe limitations on the types of services they can provide—and 490 health workers have been killed, including five MSF staff members.

April 1: Israeli forces leave Al-Shifa Hospital in ruins after a 14-day military operation. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 21 patients have died since the hospital came under siege, and about 107 other people remained trapped inside as of March 31, including four children and 28 people in critical condition. Gaza’s largest hospital is now out of service.

MSF is calling for the safe evacuation of the remaining patients so they can receive the care they need.  

Mar. 31: An Israeli airstrike hits a yard in front of Al-Aqsa Hospital, where MSF provides trauma care, wound dressings, and other critical services.  

Mar. 27: MSF staff in Rafah witness an airstrike in the vicinity of Al-Shaboura clinic. No casualties were reported among our patients or medical personnel, as the clinic was closed at the time of the attack.

Feb. 20: An Israeli tank fires on a house sheltering MSF staff members and their families in Al-Mawasi, Khan Younis, killing two people and injuring six more. Bullets were also fired at the clearly-marked MSF building, hitting its front gate, exterior, and the interior of its ground floor. 

Feb. 14 - 15: Israeli forces order everyone inside Nasser Hospital to evacuate and then storm the hospital early in the morning. Everyone who leaves the hospital is screened by Israeli forces and one MSF staff member is detained.* MSF staff are forced to flee the hospital after the orthopedic department is shelled by Israeli forces, killing and wounding an undetermined number of people. 

* Staff member was released on April 4

Feb. 13: Israeli forces order the evacuation of thousands of displaced people sheltering inside Nasser Hospital. Medical staff and patients are told they can remain in the building, with one caretaker per patient. Many people are afraid to leave the hospital because shots were fired at the building and at people trying to leave the compound. 

Jan. 9: A strike on an MSF shelter in Khan Younis kills the five-year-old daughter of an MSF staff member. 

Dec. 17: Israeli forces take control of Al-Awda Hospital after a 12-day siege. Men and boys over 16 years old are stripped and interrogated, with six MSF staff among them.

The same day, the maternity ward of Nasser Hospital is hit by the casing of Israeli “illumination rounds,” killing one patient and wounding others.  

Dec. 12: An MSF surgeon is injured inside Al-Awda Hospital by a shot fired from the outside. 

Dec. 5: MSF staff at Al-Awda Hospital report that the hospital is facing a total siege. In the following days, two medical staff (not MSF staff members) are shot and killed by snipers. 

Dec. 1: Hours after the truce between ends, a blast damages Al-Awda Hospital.

Nov. 24: Israeli forces destroy a minibus attempting another evacuation of MSF staff and their relatives in the north.

Nov. 21: A strike on Al-Awda Hospital kills two MSF doctors, Dr. Mahmoud Abu Nujaila and Dr. Ahmad Al Sahar, and another doctor, Dr Ziad Al-Tatari. 

Nov. 18: An MSF evacuation convoy is targeted by Israeli sniper fire, killing two people , including an MSF volunteer. Two days later, our colleagues sheltering in the MSF guesthouse witness a bulldozer and Israeli military vehicles destroy the MSF cars from the convoy. Israeli forces also damage the MSF clinic by pushing the vehicles against its perimeter wall, which fell down. Part of the clinic caught fire. 

Nov. 15: Israeli ground troops storm Al-Shifa Hospital. All  MSF staff had left the hospital about one week earlier. 

Nov. 3: An ambulance is hit and destroyed outside Al-Shifa Hospital. Many people are killed. 

Oct. 30: The Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital is hit by a projectile, causing damage to the building. The hospital stops functioning when it runs out of fuel two days later. 

Oct. 13: Israeli forces give Al-Awda Hospital two hours to evacuate. The hospital was not subsequently hit, but it was damaged by nearby bombing.

Oct. 11: Some of the ceilings inside Al-Awda Hospital in central Gaza are damaged after a nearby airstrike.

Oct. 10: An Israeli airstrike damages MSF’s clinic. No staff are injured. 

Oct. 7: The blast from an airstrike that hit next to the MSF-supported Indonesian Hospital ignites oxygen canisters in the hospital, causing damage and killing a nurse (not an MSF staff member). 

Destruction at Al-Shifa, Gaza’s largest hospital, which is now out of service.

News & stories

May 07 01:35 PM

Israel must immediately halt plans for Rafah ground invasion

Nearly 1.5 million Palestinians are crowded into this tiny area which they were told would be a refuge from war.

Read More
An injured Palestinian man in a wheelchair returns to his tent.

May 01 10:01 AM

What it takes to get lifesaving supplies into Gaza

How Israeli authorities block, delay, and restrict humanitarian aid and essential medical supplies.

Read More
Trucks carrying supplies at the border of Gaza.

April 26 09:00 AM

Gaza medical staff: “We are alive, but we are not OK"

The mental health impact of an unyielding war will leave health workers with scars for years to come.

Read More
An MSF psychologist stands at the center of a circle of Palestinian children in a mental health session in Gaza.

April 29 09:00 AM

Gaza: "Silent killings" continue as Rafah invasion looms

Palestinians' physical and mental health continues to deteriorate due to ongoing war, preventable diseases, and a lack of access to medical care.

Read More
A veiled woman waits in a chair at an MSF facility in Gaza.

How you can help

Not everyone can treat patients in the field. But everyone can do something.

Some humanitarian crises make the headlines—others don’t. Unrestricted support from our donors allows us to mobilize quickly and efficiently to provide lifesaving medical care to the people who need it most, whether those needs are in the spotlight or not. And your donation is 100 percent tax-deductible.

We need your support to continue this lifesaving work

We need your support to continue this lifesaving work

Donate
Hear from our medical staff and experts

Hear from our medical staff and experts

ATTEND AN EVENT
Raise funds with friends

Raise funds with friends

EXPLORE FUNDRAISING