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 2014
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: 2014
Access to healthcare across the Occupied Territories remains severely limited by the West Bank wall, the Gaza blockade and other measures. There is a shortage of technical equipment and training for specialist care, including surgery and mental healthcare, in Gaza.
Living conditions continue to deteriorate and people’s coping mechanisms are stretched. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, daily violence, collective punishment, and humiliation at checkpoints are common and have taken a psychological toll.
A mental health programme was started by MSF in Hebron, Nablus and Qalqilya governorates in the West Bank in 2000, extending to East Jerusalem in 2011.
The programme focuses on adults and children who have experienced or witnessed violence (Israeli–Palestinian or inter-Palestinian), and whose psychological suffering impedes their normal life. It aims mostly to help those served evacuation orders, whose homes are demolished, and those under regular attack from settlers and Israeli army search and arrest operations.
More than 5,500 patients received psychological support during the year.
The demand for reconstructive surgery in Gaza dramatically increased because of the acute conflict.
Normally, teams work on a fly-in/fly-out basis to perform hand surgery, post-burn surgery and to correct defects, but a rise in the number of casualties led MSF to establish an emergency surgical team in Gaza between July and September to perform lifesaving operations.
A permanent reconstructive surgery team was present until December. Over 320 surgical procedures were carried out in 2014.
Two MSF clinics, in Gaza City and in an inflatable tent at Nasser hospital, provided post-operative care, including:
- 12,700 wound dressings
- 11,800 physiotherapy sessions
- occupational therapy
- More than 1,000 patients received rehabilitative care and
- 350 patients were being treated at the close of the year.
A Gaza mental health programme suspended in 2011 by local authorities resumed in October, responding to a rise in needs following Operation Protective Edge. Mental health consultations were integrated into post-operative care.
Find out more in our 2014 International Activity Report.
At the end of 2014, MSF had 121 staff in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. MSF first began working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in 1989.