MSF Gaza Medical Referent says situation is catastrophic

MSF Gaza Medical Referent says situation is catastrophic

19 January 2024, Enrico Vallaperta, MSF Project Medical Referent in Gaza, has posted the following account of his recent experiences during the conflict. Vallaperta, an Italian intensive care nurse, has worked in many parts of the world including Sudan, Ukraine, Iraq and Syria. He took part in a news conference organised by MSF in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Friday, 19 January, along with Helen Ottens-Patterson, MSF Medical Coordinator in Cairo and Enass Abu Khalaf, MSF Head of Communications in Amman. Please access the video via the link below.




I have never been in a situation like this. I have experienced emergency situations, but they lasted six, 12, 24 hours. In Gaza, the emergency is continuous. We are running out of words to denounce the catastrophic situation in Gaza. In the northern area, people do not even have access to basic care, so they die for any reason, from any disease. In the middle area, however, the situation is getting worse day by day. Ten days ago, we were forced to evacuate the hospital in Al-Aqsa, where we had been working for more than a month, following an Israeli evacuation order to the neighbourhood.


The day before the evacuation, a projectile landed inside the intensive care unit. The day we decided to evacuate, the area exactly 150 metres in front of the hospital, had an evacuation order, so the situation was becoming unsafe for all the staff who were working. Drone strikes, sniper fire and bombardments in the close vicinity of the hospital made the space too unsafe to work in.


Once we evacuated the hospital, the national staff from the Ministry of Health decided to evacuate for security reasons over the following days and most of the patients left the hospital because it was too unsafe. 


In the south, however, the situation is catastrophic for many other reasons. In an area of a few kilometres, there are more than one and a half million people who have sought refuge. They are taking refuge in absolutely disorganised areas, using plastic tents to protect themselves from the rain or the cold. Winter has arrived in Gaza, bringing new challenges for more than 1.9 million displaced people. Temperatures can drop to about 9-10°C during the night and for those who live in tents the situation is particularly dire. People burn pallets in the street to generate heat.


There is no way to meet all the needs. There is no way to provide enough food, there is not enough water. The few hospitals in the south are completely overcrowded and there is absolutely no access to any kind of care. More aid is needed to enter Gaza. 


Every day there is a new group of people trying to find space to set up new tents. In Gaza even a few simple planks of wood can save lives. I know it may seem strange, but they are used to build new beds. The beds are indispensable for the post-surgical course. Having more of them means room can be made for new patients. Wood is also needed to make crutches and get people out of the hospital who could not move around otherwise. Space is the biggest problem. Here, there is never enough. 


The number of trucks entering Gaza daily is totally insufficient, they are not able to provide enough humanitarian aid. At this moment, the help provided by aid organisations is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. A humanitarian action is when you try to satisfy the needs of a population. What is happening in Gaza, what we are doing as Doctors Without Borders and the other organisations present here, is not a humanitarian action. It is a little help in something that no one has ever seen before. No one has ever seen such a situation. But we certainly cannot call our projects a humanitarian action.


I cannot think about the six-year-old son of an MSF driver. About a month ago, his house was bombed during the evening. The kid was sleeping. He woke up in the hospital after several days. Unfortunately, a part of the ceiling collapsed and hit his head. 

After a month, he still cannot move one side of his body. After a few days, he was able to walk, but he is no longer able to speak. You see that he would like to speak, you see that he would like to return to a normal life, but unfortunately, he is not able to. But all he does is smile. A smile makes you understand the answer. It is something that, every time you see it, breaks your heart.





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