Red Cross is working to alleviate suffering in wake of Gaza crisis

Topics: Middle East and North Africa, Emergencies and Disasters Worldwide
October 10, 2014

Canadian Red Cross worker visits a teenage boy in hospital following the Gaza crisis

By Rima Kamal, Middle East and North Africa and Europe Program Officer for Canadian Red Cross

Nothing can prepare you for the experience of walking into the Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. This is where pain, despair and uncertainty hang heavily over the hospital beds of close to 75 seriously injured patients from Gaza.

“Are you sure you can handle it?” asks Dr. Kosar Khwaja, a Canadian surgeon deployed by the Canadian Red Cross to Makassed Hospital to provide support to the hospital’s emergency department during the crisis in Gaza and Israel.
I answer back: “I want to try.”

We begin in the orthopedic ward where I meet Sharif, a three-year-old from Gaza. His grandmother tells me how he sustained serious injuries running for shelter along with his parents in Gaza. To save his life, his left leg had to be amputated. His father also lost a leg while his mother lost both of her legs. His younger sister sustained burn injuries, the grandmother says.

In another room, Dr. Khwaja introduces me to Sally, also from Gaza. She’s 11 years old and was born with cerebral palsy. Sally was pulled from beneath the rubble of the Wafa’ Rehabilitation Center in Gaza after it had collapsed. As a result, Sally sustained several hip fractures and is awaiting surgery at Makassed.

We move to the Intensive Care Unit. Here, a teenage boy named Ihab lies helpless in his bed after a wall collapsed on him. Then there is Mohammad, the paramedic that was injured while attempting to carry out his job. And there is Shaza, a beautiful young girl from Gaza who lost her vision after she was hit by shrapnel.

These hospital wards are numerous, but the suffering seems endless. 

The five patients I explicitly mentioned represent a handful of the total number of Gaza patients I met at Makassed Hospital that day. They are also a fraction of the overall number of people injured in Gaza during the recent crisis. The Palestine Red Crescent Society estimates that a total of 11,100 people were injured during the Gaza crisis, while another 2,145 people lost their lives.

In addition to the loss of life, more than 21,500 families lost their homes in Gaza. Sharif’s family doesn’t have a home to return to. A long and difficult journey still lies ahead of them. Once their wounds have healed and their rehabilitation is completed, they will have to figure out where to live and how to earn a daily living. Life will not be easy for them after they leave the hospital.

On the Israeli side, more than 100 people were injured and seven civilians were killed as a direct result of the rockets fired into Israel. People have suffered all across the region, but the humanitarian needs in Gaza are pressing. In situations of violence, there are no winners. Civilians always pay the heaviest price.

Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners, including the Canadian Red Cross, are attempting to alleviate the suffering of those affected by the Gaza and Israel crisis by mobilizing funds and delegate support to national societies on both sides of the crisis. You can help by donating to the Middle East and North Africa Fund.

The funds provided by the Canadian Red Cross and other Red Cross Red Crescent Movement partners to the Palestine Red Crescent enables it to respond to some of the urgent needs, including the need to replenish medicine supplies and equipment at hospitals and clinics and the need to replace damaged or destroyed ambulances. The funds provided also ensure that displaced families can receive food parcels, hygiene items, blankets and various household items including cooking utensils.

Humanitarian assistance is a lifeline for people in need. You can help by donating today.