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“Hospitals May Become Morgues If They Don’t Get Essential Supplies”: Doctors Without Borders On Gaza Situation

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Ms Mantoo said the families of some of the organisation’s staff have been displaced.

Sounding an alarm on the situation in Gaza, Doctors Without Borders has termed it “unprecedented and catastrophic” and warned that there is a very real risk of hospitals turning into morgues because of the lack of essentials like electricity and fuel. 

In an exclusive conversation with String Reveals, Farhat Mantoo, who is the Executive Director (South Asia) of the medical humanitarian organisation, said circumstances in Gaza have always been challenging but there is such a heavy influx of patients because of the Israel-Hamas war that supplies which usually last them three weeks have been exhausted in just three days. 

“We currently have more than 300 doctors and health workers on the ground in Gaza. What I hear from my teams is that the situation is catastrophic, it is unprecedented. Medecins Sans Frontieres has not seen a situation like this anywhere around the world,” Ms Mantoo said.

‘Most Patients Children, Elderly’

Asked about Israel ordering over a million residents in Gaza to relocate south within 24 hours, she said it needs to be recognised that there is nowhere to go. Pointing out that the small strip of land is home to over 2.2 million people, she said “indiscriminate bombing and violence” has been going on there. 

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“Gaza has been impacted already by a 16-year-long blockade and the local health system is stretched and underfunded. Given this unprecedented level of violence, the influx of patients is non-stop in our health facilities. MSF is supporting three hospitals on the ground and we also have a standalone clinic. We treat surgical patients, and burn and trauma victims. We are seeing that most of our patients are children, the elderly or women,” Ms Mantoo said. 

“Water, fuel and electricity have been cut off. Our health facilities have next to no electricity or fuel, which are essential to run a hospital. Our fear is that, because of this, hospitals will transform into morgues. There are ICUs in the hospitals, people need post-surgical care. We need electricity and fuel for that,” she added. 

The senior MSF official emphasised that it is impossible for such patients, including those in the ICU, to be moved. 

Strikes On Hospitals

Ms Mantoo claimed that “every second building” in Gaza is being flattened. She said one of the buildings next to the MSF office had been hit by an airstrike on Monday and two hospitals supported by them were also hit. 

Calling attention to the fact that their teams are exhausted, she said, “Just to illustrate the number of patients we are seeing, supplies that would take three weeks to finish have been exhausted in three days.”

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Emphasising that the safety of their staff is a worry, Ms Mantoo urged all parties involved in the conflict to give them safe passage and allow them to bring in humanitarian supplies. She said MSF staff has been used to working in extremely difficult circumstances for many years but the current situation is different from anything they have seen in the past. 

Humanitarian Law

“Our staff is working, but their homes have been destroyed. Their families are displaced and even missing in some cases. For us, it is important that our exhausted teams are replaced and we are allowed to bring in emergency teams from outside,” she said.

Ms Mantoo appealed to all sides involved in the conflict to respect health facilities, health workers and vehicles. “In the last few days, we have experienced that ambulances have been hit. We want health facilities to be respected. Health should not be a target. We urge all parties to have respect for international humanitarian law.”