New MSF mission opens in Gaza

Press release - Gaza, November 20th, 2000 - MSF opened a mobile clinic program for medical and psychological support to the people of Gaza, particularly children under-12, exposed to violence, because they are living close to zones of conflicts, military camps and colonies, and particularly for children under twelve. Sealed off territories, check-points, constant violence, bullets and bombardments restrict the movement of families in the Gaza strip and have degraded their daily living conditions. "This situation creates poignant psychological distress which requires rapid and specific action. The current situation is, for everyone, more severe and more traumatic than the first Intifada", explained Dr. Christian Lachal, a psychiatrist. "We went to see a young woman, three months pregnant", said Dr. Pierre-Pascal Vandini. "Bottles of teargas had even been thrown inside her house. The family had been taken in panic and fled out the window - she, her husband and their two children. Since the first consultation she was unable to stand up, she was scared of remaining paralysed and she was worried about the baby she was carrying". Such events provoke physiological (partial and temporary paralysis) and psychological trauma: anger, anxiety, fear of being poisoned, nutritional disorders. Medical consultations enable us to detect and care for physiological complications. At the same time, psychologists can begin therapeutic work allowing patients to express their fear, to treat their traumas and reduce their stress. A team is evaluating the situation in Cisjordanie where the inhabitants of the old city of Hebron are subject to a nearly permanent curfew. The MSF teams have been in Cisjordanie since 1994. They were increased at the beginning of the clashes last October. The first aim of the program was to offer support to the Palestinian surgical teams. This included donations of surgery kits to help the medical staff adequately respond to a massive influx of wounded victims. Faced with severe traumas endured by the population in violent areas, psychological support to families was identified as an emergency. Currently ten MSF volunteers are working in Cisjordanie and in the Gaza strip.