unemployment rate in Gaza in 2020 (one of the highest in the world)
millions people are in need of humanitarian assistance, of which 1.2 million have health needs
attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinian communities were recorded in 2020, including 37 attacks on individuals
Forced to abandon their homeland more than 70 years ago, Palestinians have lived under Israeli occupation for more than 50 years. A large part of the population has also suffered from the blockade of the Gaza Strip for 13 years. Against this backdrop, Médecins du Monde has been working in Palestine for 25 years, providing direct support to the Palestinian population and healthcare facilities, while also bearing witness to the many difficulties encountered by the Palestinians on a daily basis.
This long-term humanitarian mission in Palestine focuses on issues related to access to healthcare and vital resources.
A severe lack of basic necessities for survival in Gaza
The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world. 1.9 million people live there, including 1.3 million refugees, 70% of whom live in the country’s eight refugee camps. The humanitarian situation worsened with the intensification of the land, air, and sea blockade which has been imposed by Israel since 2007, then with the Israeli military operations in 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2014 as well as with the disproportionate repression of the Great March of Return in 2018. The poverty rate reached 53% of the population of the Gaza Strip in 2020 (34% in extreme poverty). Shortages of medicines, consumables and equipment are ongoing, and reached record levels in 2019, with more than 50% of essential medicines being unavailable. Gaza also lacks ambulances and healthcare and emergency centres equipped with staff trained in emergency medicine.
The shortage of medicines has reached record levels with more than 50% of essential medicines being unavailable in 2019.
These alarming figures highlight the need to provide medical assistance in Palestine.
A vital humanitarian emergency in Palestine
In 2017, the number of exit permits granted to patients requiring urgent treatment outside Gaza dropped from 76.6% in 2015 to 44% in 2017. This has put several hundreds of people at risk, and as many as 52 people died in 2018 while waiting for an exit permit. Some people with cancer or chronic illnesses need treatment that is not available in Gaza and have to be transferred. Even putting these cases aside, however, access to basic healthcare is regularly made unavailable by the many power cuts. In 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 reinforced these restrictions, with Israel allowing only the most urgent cases to leave the Gaza Strip for treatment. A humanitarian response and medical aid are therefore crucial in Palestine.
Living alongside Israeli settlers: another necessity of the humanitarian mission
In the West Bank, particularly in the Nablus region, the population lives in permanent tension due to the proximity of the Israeli settlements. Children and adolescents are particularly at risk. Palestinians are surrounded by a large military presence and are subject to regular searches and checkpoints. Some of the Israeli settlers regularly attack Palestinian communities and villagers are regularly affected by harassment, beatings, stonings, firing of weapons, damage to houses, and destruction of crops. These settler attacks have increased significantly in recent years and are perpetrated with impunity. These traumas compound the multiple forced displacements and destruction of Palestinian homes by the Israeli occupation authorities (1,607 homes were destroyed between 2018 and 2020).
2020 also saw the emergence of a new threat to the populations of the West Bank: Israel’s desire to unilaterally annex part of the Palestinian territories, notably the northern Jordan Valley and certain settlements. Illegal under international law, this annexation seems to have been postponed for the time being, but it still poses a threat to the civilian population. At the same time, it has led to an increase in the grabbing of natural resources and territory, as well as violence by the Israeli armed forces, all performed in order to “prepare” the ground for possible annexation. This uncertainty continues to weigh heavily on the psychological state of the communities living in the area, particularly the Bedouin populations who have seen their property increasing confiscated and destroyed.
Yet stress and other mental health disorders are rarely treated. Medical staff are poorly trained to detect these issues, and the facilities to which victims could be referred are too few to meet the needs. Patients with psychological and mental problems are stigmatised, and families do not turn to care centres for this type of suffering.
How can we help Palestine?
To respond to the humanitarian emergency in Palestine, Médecins du Monde provides medical aid to Palestinians through access to basic healthcare and mental health programmes for victims of war and violence in Gaza, the West Bank and the occupied territories.
Donate for Palestine
By making a donation to Médecins du Monde, you are also contributing to this humanitarian aid for Palestine:
Our humanitarian work in Palestine
A video of people in Gaza applying fake blood and wound-like makeup is being falsely linked by social media users to the current upsurge in violence between Israel and Gaza. Users claim the video shows Palestinians faking injuries, when in fact, the footage is a simulation used by our NGO in 2017 to train our doctors : https://www.reuters.com/article/factcheck-fake-gaza-idUSL2N2N52AF
Our humanitarian mission in Palestine is mainly focused on health issues, providing psychological support and physical support to the victims of the conflict.
Working together and training in emergency responses
Médecins du Monde works in the Gaza Strip to prepare healthcare facilities to cope with emergency situations, and to help them better coordinate their work. Healthcare professionals are also trained specifically in providing emergency care to Palestinians. Referring victims of crises to appropriate facilities can also reduce the burden on overloaded hospitals, and thus improve the quality of primary care.
At the same time, Médecins du Monde works with the Palestinian NGOs “Association for Culture and Free Thought” and “Al Ataa” to provide psychosocial support and mental healthcare to the affected population. It is also a question of developing the treatment of mental health problems at the community level (notably by fighting against stigmatisation), through health centres and hospitals.
This work has already resulted in responding to many cases of psychosocial disorders over the past six years, as well as several cases of gender-based violence.
Medical aid that also relies on specific protocols
During the events linked to the Great March of Return, Médecins du Monde provided support to emergency services in several health centres as part of its humanitarian programme. The staff of eleven health centres were trained and monitored to support them in managing the very large flows of casualties. This emergency preparedness support was greatly strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, by training health workers and ensuring the distribution of necessary protective equipment such as masks.
Finally, Médecins du Monde has helped to improve the quality of sexual and reproductive healthcare through the development of dedicated treatment protocols and by training health workers on these issues, which are essential for the population of Gaza.
Humanitarian mission in Palestine: did you know?
Caregivers on the front line, supporting civilians
More Palestinians were injured during the Great March of Return in 2018 than during Israel’s 2014 “Protective Edge” military operation. While the 2014 operation was the most destructive ever suffered by the Gaza Strip, with nearly 11,000 injured civilians, in 2018 more than 18,000 people were injured in protests on the Israel-Gaza border. In both cases, healthcare workers, ambulances and health facilities were targeted, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths. Despite the danger, Médecins du Monde continues its humanitarian work to deal with the consequences of the conflict and the 14-year blockade in Gaza.
Our humanitarian mission in Palestine: alleviating mental health issues in the West Bank
In the Nablus area and the northern Jordan Valley, Médecins du Monde works to provide psychosocial support to victims of violence by settlers and the Israeli armed forces. Medical staff are trained to identify psychosocial disorders, in order to facilitate referral to the appropriate health facilities. A referral system for mental health issues, developed with the Ministry of Health, has been adopted as a national, official tool.
The organisation also offers psychosocial support, particularly support groups. People who have been the victims of attacks or who feel threatened can share their experiences. This psychosocial support has been offered in villages and schools in areas where children are particularly vulnerable to this violence. This helps them strengthen their resilience to violence and to better handle their stress.
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