The human toll of the latest Gaza war was appalling. Last year, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) doubled its capacity to help meet medical and psychological needs.
MSF in Palestine 2015
Tensions mounted between Israel and Palestine in June 2014. Operation Protective Edge was launched in the Gaza Strip on 8 July, leaving 2,286 Palestinians dead (25 percent of whom were children), over 11,000 injured and 3,000 with permanent disabilities.
A ceasefire was declared on 26 August, but of the 500,000 people displaced, 54,000 have still not been able to return home.
MSF first worked in Palestine in 1989, responding to victims of conflict and providing medical care for displaced people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Ahmad, a young man in his 20s, from Shujahia, in the north of Gaza Strip. Ahmad is in MSF’s Gaza City clinic.
“I was on my way from my home to the mosque when suddenly I heard an explosion in nearby Shaja’iya, so I ran to see if I could help. I saw a little girl, maybe six-years old, who was dying, so I picked her up.
While I was carrying her to the ambulance, there was another explosion and all the people around the ambulance, including me, were injured and some were killed.
I was hit by shrapnel, and my left leg and my neck were injured. Now I need surgery and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to go abroad for it through MSF.
They can’t do this kind of surgery here. I’m told there is no capacity and no skilled surgeons to perform the type of surgery I need.”
Hazem Abu Malouh, MSF doctor
“It's very hard because we have no news from patients who used to come regularly for care. Or we see patients that tell us terrible stories like this little girl of seven who has burns to her face, caused by an explosion.
“She came for treatment. But when I asked her where her father and mother were, she said they died. There is also this 32-year-old woman who was slightly injured by shrapnel and was pretty good physically.
“But she was very shaken by the loss of her four brothers. Two of them just got married and all died in recent weeks. We listen to patients, they need to talk but they do not understand what happened to them.
“We really go through a lot of emotions. Sometimes incredible things happen also. A patient we followed up for a while is in a wheelchair. When I learned that the city of Shujahia where he lives was under heavy shelling and that everybody was fleeing, I wondered how he would do.
"How to escape in a wheelchair? And then one night I was watching television that showed refugee families in a school and I saw him on TV! He was alive. It was great.”
MSF’s work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories: 2015
MSF provides medical and psychological assistance to people affected by the ongoing conflict in Palestine.
The continued expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank increased tensions and violence in 2015. In October, two settlers were shot dead in what was believed to be revenge for an arson attack which had killed a Palestinian family in July.
Residents of Gaza are still suffering the consequences of 2014’s 50-day war, and are still waiting for their houses to be rebuilt due to restrictions on the importation of construction materials.
According to the United Nations, 170 Palestinians and 26 Israelis were killed, and more than 15,300 Palestinians and 350 Israelis injured, in 2015.
Jerusalem and the West Bank
MSF’s mental health programmes in Hebron, Nablus and Qalqilya governorates, and East Jerusalem, provided psychological and social support to victims of political violence. In 2015, MSF carried out 5,522 individual and group consultations, more than 50 percent of which were in Hebron (2,959).
Over 5,300 people attended psycho-education sessions run by MSF to help them develop coping mechanisms. We also provided training for medical staff, teachers and counsellors.
In October, MSF started a partnership in East Jerusalem with a local NGO, the Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture (TRC), in an effort to improve access to people in need of care.
MSF´s burn and trauma centres in Gaza City and Khan Younis treated over 2,500 patients, mostly children. Staff conducted more than 35,000 physiotherapy and 1,000 occupational therapy sessions. The majority of patients had burns, usually the result of domestic accidents in conflict-damaged homes.
In September, MSF requested authorisation to open a third specialised clinic in the north of Gaza. From late 2014 to April 2015, an MSF burns awareness campaign reached more than 35,500 children in schools and nurseries, and a new campaign was launched in November.
In conjunction with the health ministry, MSF ran surgical programmes in Al Shifa and Nasser hospitals and staff performed a total of 390 surgical interventions. The majority of patients were suffering from burns.
Complex cases that cannot be handled in Gaza are referred to MSF’s reconstructive surgery hospital in Jordan. However, the administrative component of referrals caused delays and only six out of 67 patients were successfully referred in 2015.
MSF resumed mental health activities in Gaza during the 2014 war, but it was ordered by the Ministry of Health to suspend activities in April and by the end of the year had not been able to restart.
Find out more in our 2015 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2015, MSF had 132 staff in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. MSF first began working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 1989.