The Israeli military operation, Cast Lead, began on December 27, 2008. It involved intensive aerial bombing of the Gaza Strip and a land offensive, launched on January 3, 2009. Israel's stated goals were to stop rocket fire into the southern part of the country and prevent weapons from reaching Hamas, specifically by destroying tunnels dug under the Egyptian border. The Gaza War ended on January 18, 2009, after a 22-day offensive. It took a serious toll, leaving 1,300 Palestinians dead (including 900 civilians, 300 of whom were children) and wounding an additional 5,300.
The war made it extremely difficult to provide health care. Hospitals were unable to treat many non-emergency patients. Wounded patients were discharged too quickly or remained at home, fearing for their lives. New medical and health needs have thus emerged post-war, leading Médecins Sans Frontières to revise its activities in order to address them, including post-operative care, physical therapy, mental health care and plastic surgery. The war caused considerable damage, but the embargo in place since 2006 in the Gaza Strip prevents any building materials from entering and limits food and medical supplies. The health care sector is thus in considerably worse shape today.
The Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip, "Cast Lead," launched on December 27, 2008, killed 1,300 Palestinians (including 900 civilians, 300 of whom were children) and injured 5,300 more in 22 days. Given what many considered as Israel's disproportionate response and the number of civilian victims, public opinion was widely opposed to the war. © Mustafa Hassona
Hospitals in the Gaza Strip were flooded with wounded patients. The morgues were full and bodies had to be placed in other rooms. Intensive care units, emergency rooms and operating rooms were overwhelmed, too. There was a shortage of health care workers. Those who managed to reach the hospitals were exhausted, but worked to respond to the situation. Many amputations were performed on an emergency basis. © Mustafa Hassona
During the war, Médecins Sans Frontières teams in the field (three expatriates and 60 Palestinians) regularly donated medicines and medical supplies to hospitals and sites where Gaza's displaced persons were gathered. Furnished with emergency medical kits, Médecins Sans Frontières Palestinian doctors and nurses, furnished with emergency medical kits, treated 275 of their wounded and/or ill neighbors who could not reach medical facilities. © Mustafa Hassona
Just after the ceasefire, an emergency surgical team and 21 tons of supplies and equipment (including two inflatable hospital tents) were finally able to enter Gaza City. Two operating rooms were set up in the tents. Over a six-month period, 303 specialized surgeries were performed, including the removal of external fixators, skin grafts, wound debridement and post-burn contracture release, and approximately 1,300 medical consultations were held. © Bruno Stevens/Cosmos
People whose houses were destroyed now live in the ruins or in tents. "They have lost everything - roof, privacy, dignity and social status," says Médecins Sans Frontières psychologist, Elina Pelekanou. The embargo, which was imposed on the Gaza Strip in 2006, prohibits the entry of all building materials and equipment. © Bruno Stevens/Cosmos
The damage resulting from air and naval bombing and the land incursion is still visible and bears witness to the violence of the Israeli offensive. There were few, if any, periods of calm during the 22 days of war. "A terrible human catastrophe is occurring right before our eyes and the worst is that humanitarian aid actors are there, but there is nothing the can do," Jessica Pourraz, Médecins Sans Frontières program manager for the Gaza Strip, said then. © Bruno Stevens/Cosmos
The civilian population of the Gaza Strip – 1.5 million people, 50 percent of whom are children --– was trapped, unable to flee the world's most densely population region. No one expected such intense violence. "Some lost close friends and family members or their home and some prepared their children for death," explains Elina Pelekanou, an MSF psychologist. Everyone suffered, experiencing stress, anxiety and constant terror. They remain traumatized today. © Bruno Stevens/Cosmos
The blockade also limits the entry of food and humanitarian and medical materiel. There are shortages of food, electricity, drinking water, medicine and medical supplies. Closure, isolation and restrictions have continued to worsen an already harsh situation. The impacts affect access to medical care and the population’s general health status. Eighty-five percent of the people who live there are completely reliant on humanitarian aid. The January 2009 war only deepened the existing economic and social depression. © Bruno Stevens/Cosmos
During the war, our post-operative care and physical therapy clinics in Gaza City treated between 20 and 50 patients every day. From January to June 2009, Médecins Sans Frontières provided 757 patients with this kind of care, either at one of its three clinics or via one of its seven mobile teams. Six hundred dressings were applied and approximately 950 physical therapy sessions were held every week. © Isabelle Merny / MSF
Mental health care was also expanded. Since the war's end, our team of psychologists has treated 393 patients and held 5,831 consultations. To deal with the post-war situation, address the shortages and meet the needs to the extent possible, MSF has changed the scale of its activities, doubled the number of staff and expanded the scope of operations to the entire Gaza Strip. © MSF
A bombed ambulance. The violence of the conflict and the resulting insecurity led to the violation of humanitarian space and aid actors were often unable to provide help. Hospitals, ambulances and NGO convoys were even targeted by shooting and bombing. © MSF