MSF: Immediate ceasefire is needed in Gaza to stop the bloodshed
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls for an immediate ceasefire to prevent more deaths in Gaza and allow desperately needed humanitarian supplies in. Since Oct. 27, the bombing by the Israeli forces has intensified to a degree not seen until now: northern Gaza is being razed to the ground, while the whole Strip is being hit and civilians have no place to take shelter.
The actions of world leaders are too weak, too slow, as a non-binding UN resolution for a humanitarian truce has done nothing to reign in the indiscriminate violence unleashed on a helpless people. The international community must take stronger action to urge Israel to stop the bloodshed. People are being killed and forcibly displaced from their homes, and water and fuel are running low. The atrocity is on a scale never seen before in Gaza.
Hospitals are running out of medical supplies. Earlier this week, Dr. Mohammed Obeid, our surgeon in Gaza described the following, “Hospitals are flooded with patients, amputations and surgeries are being carried out without proper anesthesia, and morgues are flooded with dead bodies”.
Contact lost with staff during blackout
The total communications blackout on Oct. 27 further limits the ability to coordinate and provide humanitarian and medical assistance. People under the rubble, pregnant women who are about to deliver, and the elderly are not able to seek help when they need it the most. Because of the blackout, MSF lost contact with most of its Palestinian staff.
Across Gaza, the number of injured in need of urgent medical assistance far exceeds the capacity of the health system, which currently has around 3,500 beds. So many victims in such a short space of time is unheard of, even compared with previous large-scale Israeli offensives.
Hospitals such as Al Shifa in Gaza City, where MSF Palestinian colleagues continue to work, are overwhelmed with patients. Israeli military orders to evacuate the hospital are impossible and dangerous. The hospital is currently at full capacity with patients seeking medical treatment, and tens of thousands of others seeking safe shelter. Under international humanitarian law, patients, health workers and facilities must be protected at all times.
“We need a ceasefire now. Water, food, fuel, medical supplies and humanitarian aid in Gaza need to be urgently restored,” says Dr. Christou.
Millions of men, women and children are facing an inhuman siege; a collective punishment that is prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Israeli authorities continue to prevent the entry of fuel into Gaza, which is essential for powering hospitals as well as the desalination plants that produce clean drinking water. On Friday evening, the death toll already stood at over 7,300 according to the local health authorities, with approximately 19,000 injured, and it may have become a lot worse after the most intense night of bombing since the start of the war. The siege will compound the deaths caused by the strikes, as medics will be forced to decide who to treat or not, and people are left without food, water or medicines.
Ready to increase aid capacity
Prior to Oct. 7, between 300 and 500 supply trucks crossed into Gaza every day, where most people were dependent on humanitarian aid. Today, despite the Rafah border crossing being open, only 84 trucks have entered since Oct. 20. A vastly inadequate response to the constant and growing needs in Gaza.
Those who want to seek safety across the border should be allowed to do so without prejudice to their right to return to Gaza. Our international staff who worked in Gaza before the war are now in the south and are no longer able to coordinate humanitarian activities. They must also be allowed to leave to Egypt.
Some of MSF’s 300 Palestinian staff have also moved to south Gaza to find shelter from the bombing for their families. Many other Palestinian colleagues continue to work and provide lifesaving care in hospitals and across the Gaza Strip, while the most basic protections for hospitals and medical personnel are not guaranteed.
“We are ready to increase our aid capacity in Gaza. We have teams on standby ready to send medical supplies and to enter Gaza to support the emergency medical response, as soon as the situation allows it,” says Dr. Christou. “But as long as the bombing continues with the current intensity, any effort to increase medical aid will inevitably fall short.”
About MSF in Palestine
The information about our response, below, is correct as of Nov. 9, 2023.
MSF activities in Gaza are currently very limited. We have extreme difficulties delivering aid and providing healthcare due to the insecurity and the unpredictability of the bombardments. While some of our colleagues decided to move south following the unacceptable evacuation order of north Gaza, some of our other colleagues have remained in northern Gaza and continue to support in lifesaving activities in Al Shifa Hospital as well in Al Nasser hospital in the south. In Al Awda hospital, a team of seven MSF staff is also working in the MSF inpatient department.
We are also supporting local health authorities with donations from our medical stock. Due to the huge and uninterrupted influx of wounded people since the beginning of the current active conflict, Al Shifa Hospital, the main surgical facility in the Gaza strip, was on the brink of a complete shortage of essential medicines. In response, we recently were finally able to make a large donation of medical stock, including medicines and medical equipment to Al Shifa hospital.
Our staff are working hard on preparing medical and humanitarian supplies to be sent to Gaza when safe access will be guaranteed and open, and we’ll send in emergency teams if and when we’re able to.
MSF is committed to supporting the people affected by the Israeli heavy bombardments and indiscriminate attacks on Gaza. We stand in solidarity with healthcare workers and patients in Gaza. We want to be able to access people in need of medical care and offer lifesaving humanitarian services, but to do this we need basic guarantees of safety.
The West Bank
MSF’s medical and humanitarian activities in the West Bank have been affected by the escalation of violence and the reinforced movement restrictions that have limited people’s access to essential services, including healthcare. To adapt to the situation, MSF medical teams are providing phone consultations for Palestinian residents and displaced people, and referring patients for medical treatment, mental healthcare and social services. MSF mental health teams are also providing psychological first aid, counselling and psychotherapy, mostly remotely. In the West Bank city of Nablus, MSF teams are continuing to provide local people with mental healthcare.
MSF has donated medical supplies, including surgical kits, to Ahli hospital in Hebron, and first aid kits to community focal points in Beit Ummar, Al-Rashaydeh and to the emergency care centre in Um Al-Khair; and provided support including training for staff in Al Mohtaseb Hospital located in Hebron old city. MSF continues to assess the situation in hospitals across the West Bank.