The situation in Gaza has been worsening for years

The current humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been covered widely in the media and criticized by the international community and NGOs. MSF notes that this worsening is not new and results from a combination of political and economic factors, aggravated by the blockade.

Several months ago, MSF field teams observed that health conditions were continuing to deteriorate in the Occupied Territories. The MSF Head of Mission, noted that "the dual conflict, Israeli-Palestinian and inter-Palestinian, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip has serious consequences for the health system. Those consequences also affect our work."

The situation involves years of violence associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the economic embargo and its tightening, since January, particularly with respect to supplies of electricity and fuel; and last summer's inter-Palestinian clash, when hospitals were targeted, staff forced to strike, humanitarian actors took sides and access to health care blocked.

Together with the latest violence, these events have weakened the health system in the Occupied Territories.

While supply problems are not new, the most recent spikes of violence have heightened the pressure on weakened health facilities. Our teams are in regular contact with hospitals in the Gaza Strip and report that despite the situation, they continue to provide basic care. MSF has helped to address shortages in medical supplies and medicine through regular donations.

Gaza: Update on MSF Activities

The situation in the Gaza Strip has been calmer since Monday, March 3, 2008. At the height of the crisis, MSF still managed to make donations to health facilities and continue to assess medical needs. Our teams are prepared to treat new patients in the coming days.

To date, approximately 120 people have died and 360 have been wounded, including women and children. Victims are still being freed from the rubble of the destroyed buildings. Given the seriousness of their injuries, most patients must be hospitalized and the mortality rate is quite high. Of the casualties, 25 percent were fatalities.

Seventy-five new patients are expected to enter our programs

Our clinics have reopened and post-operative care has resumed in Gaza and Khan Younis. Our goal is to care for discharged patients referred by the Shifa hospital's surgery department (the first patient was referred on Tuesday) and by other health facilities. On Thursday, March 6, our teams conducted evaluations at the Shifa, Kamal Edwan and Al Awda hospitals.

On Sunday, March 9, MSF conducted evaluations in the Jabaliya area. Wounded patients may also be referred to us from that region. In the weeks ahead, up to 75 new patients could enter the MSF programs. These projections do not include the many wounded referred to Egypt who will require post-operative care. To address this increased need, an additional mobile medical team will travel through the northern Gaza Strip. Teams will also be increased and shifts will be assigned in our clinics so that they can remain open longer, if necessary.

Mobile medical teams have resumed their home visits to patients who cannot travel. MSF staff have distributed large quantities of medical supplies (specifically drips) and medicines from our emergency inventory. After a new needs evaluations, dressing and suture supplies were distributed to emergency departments at the Shifa hospital and several other in the northern Gaza Strip.

If the Shifa emergency department cannot cope with the volume of patients, we will also be able to relieve them and treat minor surgeries, sutures and other procedures.