The first sign of help after the hail of bombs: mobile clinic in southern Lebanon
The bombs have only just stopped falling, and people are already returning to Houla in packed cars. An MSF team has also reached the village in southern Lebanon and has been providing medical treatment for several hours in an empty clinic.
Henk Hammer examines the empty boxes of heart medicine that Abdallah has brought along with him. After a short examination, the doctor gives the 80-year-old new pills for the following two weeks. The old man cries a little as he talks about the past few days: he wants nothing more than to live in peace, he says. Then he thanks the doctor and says goodbye repeatedly and makes way for the next patient.
Abdallah is one of the few hundred people who have been holding out in Houla. The village is located just one kilometre from the Lebanese-Israeli border - numerous houses have been destroyed and many streets have been demolished or are buried under debris. Burned-out car wrecks, bullet holes in house walls and tank tracks serve as a reminder of the heavy fighting.
A missile exploded a mere 40 metres from Abdallah's house, the old man explains, but it was much too late to escape. In the last few days before the beginning of the ceasefire, Houla was essentially cut off from the rest of the world.
Many of the mostly older patients come to the MSF mobile clinic with chronic complaints such as muscle pain, rheumatism or stomach problems. The illnesses are not life-threatening, but many of the patients struggle with the terrible experiences of the last few days and weeks.
"The people are weakened - many of them haven't been able to sleep for some time," Henk Hammer explains. "That's why it was important to get here as soon as possible."
The medical treatment and attention are the first sign of help after weeks of bombing.
In a room next door, Matt Everitt hands out a plastic bag of toiletries to each family: toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, sanitary items and washing powder. For families with small children, nappies and baby food are also available. The logistics expert from Australia has put thousands of these packs together. The team brought as many as they could fit in the back of the all-terrain vehicle.
The people in Houla had to survive for several weeks with what they had in the house at the outbreak of the fighting. At this point, they have nothing left - especially those whose homes were destroyed.
Matt Everitt is convinced that a toiletry pack can at least help to solve a few of the everyday problems.
"If it remains peaceful, family members and neighbours will return home in a few days, the first shops will open again and other help organisations will come. Until then, the packs may just be a small gesture, but for the people here, they mean a lot."