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02 Aug 14 08 Aug 14

Gaza: "The truce did not last"

Michele Beck, a medical referent with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is in Gaza City. Here she explains what MSF teams have and have not been able to do in the last few days.

“A 72-hour truce began yesterday morning, but it did not last long. During the truce we had planned to go to Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip, to see if they needed any additional supplies or staff.

But we couldn’t— we had to turn around as the fighting resumed. The truce would have given people here a bit of time to breathe and to bury their dead. It would have also allowed us to move.

But it didn’t happen that way.

Exhaustion

MSF staff living near Rafah called us: they were forced to stay in their homes. They described scenes of chaos, with lots of dead and wounded people in the streets.

The bombings keep on. They mean we can’t move around; they impede our ability to work in the Gaza Strip.

We do what we can, but the fighting must end for several days for aid to make its way in and for people to get healthcare and the basic necessities.

I don’t know how long we can keep going at this rate. The people here are exhausted.         

        

Al Shifa

In Gaza City, we are focusing on Al Shifa hospital. Waves of wounded people arrive; how many exactly depends on the intensity of the bombing.

People often have multiple injuries, burns, shrapnel wounds or need amputations. There are seven MSF expatriate staff – doctors, anaesthetists, nurses and surgeons – working at Al Shifa hospital, together with Palestinian staff.

They work in the emergency department, the operating theatre and the burns unit.

The Palestinian staff from the Ministry of Health are experienced in war surgery and dealing with large influxes of wounded people. They do a great job.

Women and children

Sometimes the numbers of people coming in are so large that it’s difficult to count exactly how many there are. We see lots of women and children.

On the night of 29th July, our teams performed 27 surgeries — 15 of them on children under the age of 12.

On 30th July, the team carried out surgery after surgery, all night long – 50 in total. Sometimes multiple surgeries had to be performed in the same operating room.

Hospitals overwhelmed

Most health centres have closed because of the conflict, and hospitals are overwhelmed.

In Gaza City, MSF runs a clinical post-operative care unit, but most of patients are afraid to come in because of the constant danger. There are only about 20 patients per day.

Hundreds of injured people streamed into the Edwan Kamal Nasser Hospital in Beit Lahia and Khan Younis Hospital the night of 28th to 29th July.

MSF has been donating medical supplies to these two facilities, which are both struggling to cope with the needs."

Find out more about MSF’s work in Gaza and the West Bank