Thursday, January 15, 2009

‘Trying to provide medical care in Gaza City, in spite of everything’

By Staff ∙ Médicins Sans Frontières ∙ January 15, 2009

The MSF team in Gaza is carrying out its work, although team members wish they could provide more aid. Still, they are treating wounded patients who cannot reach a hospital and distributing medical supplies and medications.

MSF doctor treats a young patient as hospital emergency departments are besieged by wounded patients. January 2009 (Photo by Mustafa Hassona)
MSF doctor treats a young patient as hospital emergency departments are besieged by wounded patients. January 2009 Photo by Mustafa Hassona

Yesterday and today, the MSF team managed to reach the Al Shifa referral hospital, which is in major need of surgical support. At the hospital’s request, MSF is trying to dispatch a surgical team and a mobile hospital with an operating room and intensive care unit to increase capacity for treating the wounded.

An additional 34 wounded patients arrived at the hospital on the night of January 12th and 13th, the intensive care unit is working at full capacity. The majority of emergencies involve seriously-wounded patients and those with multiple traumas, primarily to the thorax, abdomen and face.

Even though they are full, there are still many wounded people who cannot reach health facilities because moving about is dangerous. The story of a woman, aged around 60, who was seriously injured during bombing in Jabalia, is a familiar one. Her son was killed immediately and she managed to crawl to her house but could not get to the hospital. MSF provided supplies and medications to a Palestinian nurse who lives near her and an MSF nurse managed to get to her home. The patient suffered fractures and head trauma and required hospitalisation, but was still unable to reach the hospital.

As of December 27, 19 of MSF’s Palestinian staffmembers (six doctors and 13 nurses) have been equipped with medical kits so that they can provide treatment in the neighborhoods where patients live. Thanks to that organizational approach, our teams see an average of 40 patients/day across the entire Gaza Strip. "Our movements are incredibly limited," explains Colin, an MSF nurse. "Until the fighting ends, we won’t be able to do our job properly."


Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid in more than 60 countries to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters or exclusion from healthcare.

In emergencies and their aftermath, MSF rehabilitates and runs hospitals and clinics, performs surgery, battles epidemics, carries out vaccination campaigns, operates feeding centres for malnourished children and offers MSF Logomental health care. When needed, MSF also constructs wells, dispenses clean drinking water, and provides shelter materials like blankets and plastic sheeting.

Through longer-term programmes, MSF treats patients with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, sleeping sickness and HIV/AIDS and provides medical and psychological care to marginalized groups such as street children.

Founded by doctors and journalists in 1971, MSF is now a worldwide movement with sections in 19 countries and an international coordination office in Geneva, Switzerland.

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