Palestinian Territories: After Violence, MSF Anticipates More Patients

Clinics will have a focus on post-operative care

The situation in the Gaza Strip has been calmer since Monday, March 3, 2008, following fighting between Palestinian armed groups and Israeli forces. At the height of the fighting, MSF managed to make donations to health facilities and continued to assess medical needs. Teams are prepared to treat new patients in the coming days.

Due to the violence, approximately 120 people have died and 360 have been wounded, including civilians. Most patients must be hospitalized, due to the seriousness of their injuries.

In Gaza and Khan Younis, MSF clinics have reopened and post-operative care has resumed. The goal is to care for discharged patients referred by the Shifa hospital’s surgery department and other health facilities. The first patient was referred on March 4. On March 6, MSF teams conducted evaluations at the Shifa, Kamal Edwan, and Al Awda hospitals. From these facilities, an anticipated 24 patients are expected to enter MSF’s post-operative care programs soon.

On March 9, MSF teams began conducting evaluations in the Jabaliya area. Up to 75 wounded patients are expected to enter MSF programs from this area in the near future. These projections do not include the many wounded persons referred to medical facilities in Egypt who will subsequently require post-operative care. To address this increased need, an additional mobile medical team will travel through the northern Gaza Strip. Teams will also be increased and shifts will be assigned in MSF clinics so that they can remain open longer if necessary.

Mobile medical teams have resumed their home visits to patients who cannot travel. They have distributed large quantities of medical supplies, specifically IV drips, and medicines from an emergency inventory. After a new needs evaluation, MSF distributed dressing and suture supplies to emergency departments at the Shifa Hospital and several others in the northern Gaza Strip. If the Shifa emergency department cannot cope with the volume of patients, MSF will also be able to relieve them and treat minor surgeries and other procedures.

The situation in Gaza has been worsening for years

The current humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been covered widely in the media and criticized by the international community and NGOs. MSF notes that this worsening is not new and results from a combination of political and economic factors, aggravated by the blockade.

Several months ago, MSF field teams observed that health conditions were continuing to deteriorate in the Occupied Territories. Duncan Mclean, MSF head of mission, said, “The dual conflict—Israeli-Palestinian and inter-Palestinian—and the blockade of the Gaza Strip have serious consequences for the health system. Those consequences also affect our work.”

The situation involves years of violence associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the economic embargo and its tightening since January—particularly with respect to supplies of electricity and fuel—and last summer’s inter-Palestinian clash, when hospitals were targeted, staff forced to strike, humanitarian actors took sides, and access to health care was blocked. These events have weakened the health system in the Occupied Territories.

While supply problems are not new, the most recent spikes of violence have heightened the pressure on weakened health facilities. MSF teams are in regular contact with hospitals in the Gaza Strip and report that despite the situation, they continue to provide basic care. MSF has helped to address shortages in medical supplies and medicine through regular donations