<style>.post-39603 .entry-title{color: }</style>310

Tackling the Medical Emergency in Gaza

The Heroic Work of Primary Healthcare Workers

Courtesy of Palestinian
Medical Relief Society

As the healthcare infrastructure in Gaza collapses, Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) continues to provide lifesaving, essential healthcare to most of the people who remain in the Gaza Strip. Since October 7, 2023, the Israeli aggression on civilians and civilian infrastructure belies Israel’s claims that it is doing its utmost to avoid civilian deaths. Moreover, out of the 36 hospitals that used to operate in Gaza, not a single one is functional without some degree of destruction; the majority are now entirely nonoperational, and healthcare in Gaza has been rendered nothing short of a nightmare. As of today, over 25,000 individuals have been killed, over 60,000 injured, and 7,000 reported missing, suspected to be dead under the rubble. Over 300 healthcare workers have been killed while on duty, and approximately 600 attacks have specifically targeted healthcare services since October 7. The flow of humanitarian aid, including basic necessities such as water, food, and medical supplies, has been critically low, entirely inadequate to meet the actual needs of the population, which is leading not only to malnourishment but also to the devastating reality of people dying of starvation and dehydration.

While much of the focus, quite rightly, has remained on emergency and trauma medicine, perhaps the greater need, in terms of demand, has been for primary healthcare (PHC) services. Currently, for example, there are 71,000 diabetics who do not have access to insulin or food.i

Founded by Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi in 1979, the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) has dedicated 46 years to ensuring that the most vulnerable Palestinians have access to quality healthcare. For the last 108 days, as aggression has escalated in Gaza and the West Bank, our teams’ dedication has not wavered. The bravery and steadfast commitment of our healthcare workers have strengthened and inspired millions around the globe. Our health workers in Gaza continue to courageously confront the most horrific conditions, delivering healthcare to their communities daily despite unimaginable personal losses and challenges. Many of them are internally displaced themselves, living in shelters and facing a lack of food and water as they strive to care for their families and communities, in addition to carrying out their work.

Gazans urgently need your support! The current needs of Gaza’s population are unprecedented.

PMRS has mobilized and established 30 primary healthcare teams that are spread across the entire Gaza Strip. These teams are now taking care of around 90 percent of primary healthcare needs. Our teams in Gaza have reached a total of 363,000 beneficiaries in the last 108 days, although this number is likely to be higher, due to the reporting constraints in Gaza. This is no small feat in the current context, especially when we consider that due to the devastation of the entire healthcare infrastructure, many patients who cannot receive care in hospitals are now being taken care of by our teams. Every single team is providing comprehensive primary healthcare to thousands of people in Gaza. PMRS services include wound management, maternal and child health, mental health services, chronic disease management, emergency response, and gender-based violence and protection services, as well as the provision of supplies such as dignity and hygiene kits. PMRS teams in Gaza are now predominantly mobile, adapting their work patterns to the needs that frequently change, depending on the context of a particular day, given the extreme nature of the emergencies they face. Across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, our teams continue to work via mobile clinics and outreach centers, in addition to connecting to our primary healthcare clinics.

Mental health support in Gaza has been of utmost importance. With the extreme pressures, trauma, and ongoing violence that the population has had to endure, mental health services have been essential. PMRS has noted that the majority of our mental health consultations have been for those aged 18 years and under, with support given to over 100,000 patients so far. Overall, mental health services have constituted 35 percent of the total services provided by PMRS, which is a positive indication that people are seeking the mental health support they need and deserve.

To ensure that pregnant women and those who have given birth have access to the support and care they need, PMRS has also worked with partners. With the majority of Gaza’s population living in shelters – and many without shelter – the conditions of soon-to-be mothers and those who have recently given birth are extreme. Currently, there are 50,000 expectant mothers in Gaza, and approximately 180 babies being born every day.ii As the situation is extremely dangerous for mothers and babies, the PMRS teams are a great source of comfort and support for these women. The teams visit UNRWA shelters, other public and private shelters, and in many instances homes to provide these services. Fortunately, with support from donors, these teams have also been able to give much-needed supplies such as sanitary kits, safe birthing kits, clothes and blankets for babies, as well as food and supplements for the mothers.

Moreover, PMRS teams have played an instrumental role in teaching emergency response preparedness within the communities. Activities are undertaken to prepare and support communities during times of emergency and crisis via awareness-raising and education campaigns. These activities include handing out information to beneficiaries in the form of flyers and through social media campaigns, including live interviews, information sessions, and regular radio sessions. Via these activities, we have managed to reach and impact 22,000 direct beneficiaries. Of particular importance are our live and radio information sessions. Given the increase in restricted areas, this is a key means through which our teams are still able to inform and support our communities with information on health, how to take care of their needs, and ways to manage during emergencies.

PMRS teams have lost many things in both their professional and personal lives. Thus, as they are doing amazing work, we cannot forget the personal sacrifice of these health workers day after day. PMRS clinics and centers have been destroyed or damaged to the point of not being able to function. This includes two health centers and a rehabilitation center in the north, a chronic disease center, a physiotherapy center, assistive-devices and main laboratories in Gaza City and in the southern areas, and a health and rehabilitation center in Khan Younis.

We ask anyone who reads this article to please share the information about our work and draw attention to what is happening in Gaza and Palestine. Acknowledge that our teams are continuing to work amid the worst brutal conditions they have ever experienced. Given the escalation in violence and the deterioration of the humanitarian conditions, PMRS remains extremely concerned about its teams and the population of Gaza. Without a ceasefire, the provision of healthcare is becoming increasingly difficult if not impossible. Healthcare workers continue to be targeted, as are hospitals, ambulances, and clinics. There is a great need for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, and we still do not know the full extent of the damage or the full extent of people’s needs. There will continue to be great pressure on the provision of medical support in the foreseeable future. The resilience of Palestinian health workers, such as our PMRS teams, while heroic and inspiring, should not be taken for granted any longer. Their lives, their rights, and their pain are great – and they are just as human as any other persons on earth.


iOPt Emergency Situation Update: Gaza Strip,” World Health Organization, November 23, 2023; see also Bill Van Esweld, “Gaza Blockade Puts People with Diabetes at Risk: Dire Insulin Shortage Potentially Life-Threatening,” Human Rights Watch, December 15, 2023.

iiWomen and Newborns Bearing the Brunt of the Conflict in Gaza, UN Agencies Warn,” World Health Organization, November 3, 2023.




Serving the Most Vulnerable Palestinians since 1979

The Palestinian Medical Relief Society

This report, published on January 14, 2024, covers the emergency services provided by the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) from October 7 until December 31, 2023, in response to the humanitarian crisis that unfolded in Gaza. It sheds light on the humanitarian situation and shows how the war has impacted the health infrastructure and access to services, highlighting PMRS work in response to the emergency situation. This work included the following actions:

– The deployment of 30 mobile outreach teams operating across the Gaza Strip in shelters, medical points, and hosting communities.

– The provision of outreach emergency care and wound management for injured people, including wound cleaning and dressing changes and monitoring for infection and other complications.

– The provision of comprehensive primary healthcare services via outreach teams connected to various shelters, medical points, and hosting communities. These services included screening, management of communicable and noncommunicable diseases, follow-up for patients with chronic diseases, and women’s health services (antenatal and postnatal care, supporting pregnant women during delivery, family planning, gynecological care, etc.).

– The provision of on-the-ground, face-to-face mental health and psychosocial support services for women, youth, and children.

– The organization of a series of recreation/mental health rehabilitation activities in the shelters to support the emotional well-being of youth and children.

– The provision of awareness-raising sessions on gender-based violence prevention and risk-mitigation measures.

The report also highlights the challenges our teams faced in their service provision.

This report, published on January 14, 2024, covers the emergency services provided by the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) from October 7 until December 31, 2023, in response to the humanitarian crisis that unfolded in Gaza. It sheds light on the humanitarian situation and shows how the war has impacted the health infrastructure and access to services, highlighting PMRS work in response to the emergency situation. This work included the following actions:

– The deployment of 30 mobile outreach teams operating across the Gaza Strip in shelters, medical points, and hosting communities.

– The provision of outreach emergency care and wound management for injured people, including wound cleaning and dressing changes and monitoring for infection and other complications.

– The provision of comprehensive primary healthcare services via outreach teams connected to various shelters, medical points, and hosting communities. These services included screening, management of communicable and noncommunicable diseases, follow-up for patients with chronic diseases, and women’s health services (antenatal and postnatal care, supporting pregnant women during delivery, family planning, gynecological care, etc.).

– The provision of on-the-ground, face-to-face mental health and psychosocial support services for women, youth, and children.

– The organization of a series of recreation/mental health rehabilitation activities in the shelters to support the emotional well-being of youth and children.

– The provision of awareness-raising sessions on gender-based violence prevention and risk-mitigation measures.

The report also highlights the challenges our teams faced in their service provision.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *