In response to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Handicap International is donating equipment such as wheelchairs and crutches to Al-Shifa hospital, where many of the injured are being treated. The organization made its first donation on July 23, and plans to make more donations this week.
Handicap International, which has been working with people with disabilities in Gaza since 1996, suspended its rehabilitation activities with the onset of the current conflict. However, Handicap International’s Palestinian staff members remain inside Gaza. Samah Abu Lamzy, Handicap International’s Gaza project manager, visited the hospital last week to assess its needs and described the situation there as critical: “Some of the injured have to just be treated on the floor so the tiles are covered with blood. The situation was disastrous even before the bombings but things are worsening by the day.”
Handicap International and its partners in the field are hoping to deploy mobile rehabilitation teams as soon as the security situation allows. However, the blockade of Gaza and ongoing bombings has made access to the area from the outside impossible for now.
“In just 20 days of fighting, more than 6,000 people, including 2,000 children, have been injured,” says Jean-Bertrand Lebrun, Handicap International’s regional director. “Most are injured in explosions or by collapsing buildings. They are treated in facilities that lack the resources to deal with a disaster on this scale. Hospitals are giving priority to saving lives and administering first aid, so the injured are sent home almost immediately because they need to make way for a fresh intake of injured people. We’re going to need to do a lot of rehabilitation work to help the injured avoid developing permanent disabilities.”
Once able to access Gaza safely, Handicap International staff hope to provide psychological support to help people suffering from post-traumatic stress. “The psychological impact on the population as a whole is extremely worrying and our colleagues in the field have already begun to spot the symptoms of severe trauma across Gaza,” says Jean-Bertrand Lebrun.
Lastly, Handicap International, which has been conducting weapons decontamination operations in nearby Lebanon, is exploring the possibility of launching a project to locate and destroy explosive remnants of war when the current conflict ends. Staff would also teach Gaza residents to spot, avoid, and report explosive devices they find.