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© Aurelie Baumel/MSF

Palestine

Most of the wounded injured in recent events in Gaza will be condemned to lifelong injuries

The human toll of the latest events in Gaza are appalling. 

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Our medical teams are working around the clock, as they have done since 1 April 2018, providing surgical and postoperative care to men, women and children.

In one of the hospitals where we are working, the chaotic situation is comparable to what we observed after the bombings of the 2014 war, with a colossal influx of injured people in a few hours, completely overwhelming medical staff.

Our facilities providing post-operative care in Gaza have received more than 800 patients with gunshot wounds between 1 April and 15 May. 

The events come nearly four years after Operation Protective Edge was launched in the Gaza Strip in 2014, leaving 2,286 Palestinians dead (25 percent were children), over 11,000 injured and 3,000 with permanent disabilities.

A ceasefire was declared on 26 August 2014, but of the 500,000 people displaced, 54,000 have still not been able to return home.

We 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.

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Our work in the West Bank

We have been running mental health programmes offering free and confidential support in Nablus, Qalqilya, Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah governorates, where the ongoing occupation and internal violence continue to have a serious impact on the physical and psychological health of the people.

They are exposed to both direct and indirect trauma, including violence, raids on their homes and arrests of family members.

In 2017, 644 patients benefited from individual and group mental health sessions. Over 44 per cent of these patients were under 18 years of age.

Our work in the Gaza Strip

A number of factors have contributed to the deterioration in the general socioeconomic situation in Gaza, including the 10-year blockade imposed by Israel and the fighting between the various Palestinian authorities.

More than half of the population is unemployed, electricity is restricted to a few hours per day, there is a lack of clean drinking water and people’s movements in and out of the Strip are extremely limited, preventing them from seeking specialised healthcare.

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Our staff work in three clinics in Gaza, providing specialist care for burns and trauma patients, such as dressings, physiotherapy and occupational therapy. In 2017, 4,900 patients were treated, mostly for burns sustained in domestic accidents; 62 percent of these patients were under 15 years old.

Despite the technical experience of our nurses and physiotherapists, their work is complicated by the limited access to essential painkillers in Gaza. To alleviate the suffering of burns patients during the most painful medical procedures, MSF introduced the sedation technique using nitrous oxide mixed with oxygen, known as EMONO.

We continued to run our reconstructive surgical programmes in conjunction with the Ministry of Health for patients with burns, trauma or congenital malformations. In 2017, our teams performed a total of 411 interventions on 197 patients, 75 percent of whom were under 18 years of age.

The most complex cases that cannot be handled in Gaza are referred to MSF’s reconstructive surgery hospital in Jordan. However, due to administrative restrictions, only six out of 19 patients could be referred in 2017.

We continued to run sessions on burns awareness for schools and women’s associations, giving advice on preventing accidents and lessons in first aid.

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