MSF have called for more medical aid to be sent to Gaza through the Rafah crossing. Alamy Stock Photo

Medical NGO describes dire conditions in Gaza including 'amputations without adequate anaesthetic'

An Irish representative for MSF described the medical situation in Gaza as ‘truly dire’.

OPERATIONS AND AMPUTATIONS are being conducted in Gaza using inadequate amounts of anaesthetic, a leading NGO has warned as the ongoing siege enters its second month.

Dónal Gorman, a representative of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) Ireland, has expressed hope that new doctors will be entering Gaza “imminently”, now that the Rafah Crossing has been opened.

“We’ve heard from our team last night, that the medical teams are still working with very little medical aid,” Gorman told The Journal.

“Horrendous stories of having to conduct operations and even amputations without adequate anesthetic.

The situation is truly dire.”

Gorman said that hospitals on the ground, including the region’s largest facility Al Shifa Hospital, are “completely overwhelmed” due to the continued bombardment from Israel’s air and ground attacks as they continue their fight against Hamas.

gaza-3rd-nov-2023-people-check-an-ambulance-after-an-israeli-warplane-attacked-ambulances-at-a-gate-of-the-shifa-medical-complex-in-gaza-city-on-nov-3-2023-at-least-six-palestinians-were-killed People check an ambulance after an Israeli warplane attacked ambulances at a gate of the Shifa Medical Complex in Gaza City on 3 November. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Inside the Gaza Strip, MSF, a neutral and impartial medical aid organisation, has been working with hospitals in the territory, as they have done in other conflict zones for a number of decades.

Gorman told the eyewitness account of one MSF doctor, Dr Obaid, who saw an Israeli airstrike hit a Gazan ambulance as it entered the gates of Al Shifa Hospital last week.

The IDF justified this strike by claiming the vehicle was under control of Hamas militants at the time of the attack, though the attack was criticised by other groups including Human Rights Watch as potentially against international law.

Gorman said Dr Obaid’s account says he witnessed and assisted doctors with immediately rushing victims into the operating room of the hospital’s emergency department.

Dr Obaid’s account says that some in the ambulance were killed immediately and there were “bloody bodies everywhere” in the direct aftermath of the attack.

Gorman said: “We as MSF think the deadly attack outside the gate of Al Shifa which impacted the ambulance was utterly horrendous.

“It was a lethal attack outside of Gaza’s main and busiest hospital – where our staff work daily to provide life-saving medical care.”

Gorman said the likes of these events are the reason why MSF is calling for an immediate ceasefire to be placed in the region and for increased aid to be brought in to help with the work of doctors in hospitals, such as Al Shifa.

“Hospitals should be protected spaces,” Gorman said. “And we call for an immediate ceasefire, to stop the bombardment of Gaza, to reiterate that hospitals, ambulances, and medical teams do have a protected position in war zones, and this should be respected.

“Patients and staff need to have safe spaces where they can be treated, and where our teams can treat patients [who have been] badly injured by weeks of relentless airstrikes,” he said.

Gorman said that fuel is running out, which has led to generators, providing power to the many remaining hospitals, to begin to fail.

“If you cut off a power supply to a hospital or hospital runs out of fuel for its electricity, you have to remember: Babies are are kept alive in incubators and a lot of medical equipment runs through electricity,” Gorman said.

“We need lighting to even see when doctors performing surgeries. So it’s incredibly important that fuel gets [into Gaza], along with other humanitarian aid including medical supplies,” he said.

Hamas, a Palestinian-militant group located in the Gaza Strip, launched a major surprise terror attack in Israel on 7 October, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking 240 people hostage.

This was the worst attack on the country since its founding in 1948.

Since, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have waged an all-out war on the militant group, in an effort to eradicate them from Gaza, through launching a severe air bombardment and lethal ground offensive in the region.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has said that 10,500 people, mostly civilians, have been killed within Gaza as a result of the Israeli military operations.

‘Truly dire’

The bombardment of Gaza, now entering its second month, has led to 12 out 35 hospitals and medical care facilities being shut down in the region, according to MSF’s Irish representative.

Gorman described the situation on the ground as “truly dire” and said more need to be done in regards to the provision of increased medical aid, as fuel and painkillers are running dry in the area.

Israel has claimed that these resources are being stolen by Hamas and used to assist them in targeting Israeli soldiers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said will take complete responsibility of the security of Gaza after the state’s offensive has concluded.

Foreign ministers in the G7 have released a statement saying that they supported “humanitarian pauses and corridors” in the conflict but refrained from calling for a ceasefire.

The United Nations have made similar calls for such corridors to be established and a ceasefire to be put in place. 

Gorman said more doctors from MSF will soon enter the region, through the Rafah Crossing, in order to continue the organisations assistance.

october-27-2023-palestinians-seated-on-the-ground-close-to-a-damaged-ambulance-take-part-in-friday-noon-prayers-in-the-driveway-of-the-emergency-entrance-of-the-nasser-hospital-in-khan-yunis-in-t Palestinians, seated on the ground close to a damaged ambulance, take part in Friday Noon prayers in the driveway of the emergency entrance of the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Currently, according to Gorman, not enough medical and humanitarian aid is passing through the Rafah crossing, in the south of Gaza, which hospitals and MSF need to continue their work to save lives and treat the wounded.

“It’s a drop in the ocean, of the scale of need that exists, that’s managing to get through. So all of this, including the security context, makes it extremely challenging,” Gorman said.

“However, even within this, our medical teams and the medical staff in Gaza and our Palestinian medical colleagues are saving lives and helping people who have been under relentless bombardment for over a month now.

“Airstrikes continue to fall and airstrikes are hitting civilians – who are bearing the brunt of this bombardment.

“Medical facilities and ambulances have not been spared. And residential areas have not been spared, schools and refugee camps.

“This bombardment is affecting civilians most of all,” Gorman said.

Muiris O'Cearbhaill & Diarmuid Pepper