Watch: MAP supported surgeons treat Gaza's wounded

In September, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) supported another limb reconstruction mission to Gaza in partnership with IDEALS, thanks to the response we received to our Gaza emergency response.

Over five days, the team of UK medics supported local health workers in the treatment of protesters injured by Israeli forces. The team examined patients undergoing limb reconstruction treatment and performed complex, urgently needed surgeries alongside Palestinian medics.

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Since 30 March, Palestinians in Gaza have been participating in widespread civil society-organised demonstrations, known as the “Great March of Return”. With more than two thirds of the population refugees, demonstrators are demanding the realisation of their right to return to the lands they were expelled from or fled in 1948, and the wider realisation of their rights after 11 years of illegal closure and blockade.

Israel’s shocking-and often lethal- use of force in the context of these demonstrations has resulted in the deaths of 176 Palestinians and 20,833 have also been injured by live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas (30 March-22 September). Thousands of patients have devastating limb injuries, and at least 1,200 require extensive limb reconstruction treatment, with up to seven surgeries.

MAP’s Director of Programmes, Dr. Andy Ferguson, was in Gaza supporting the mission. He stressed “the number of patients with devastating gunshot wounds would completely overwhelm the combined resources of every single limb reconstruction unit in the UK”.

One of the patients operated on by the team of UK medics told MAP: “I was left to bleed for more than two hours by the perimeter fence. I woke up from the surgery to find an external fixator [used to stabilise shattered bone] on my leg. They told my father to try to get me outside Gaza for medical treatment, but I couldn’t get out, but I am now glad the medical mission made it into Gaza and I could undergo my surgery.”

Dr. Mahmoud Mattar, Head of the Orthopaedic Department in Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, told MAP: “The number of injuries we deal with every Friday is huge, so we are always in need of more limb reconstruction equipment. If we were to only use our local resources, we wouldn’t be able to properly manage the treatment patients require.”

Speaking from Gaza, Consultant Plastic Surgeon Tom Potokar stressed the long-term support patients with complex limb injuries require:

We have seen a number of patients. These cases need long-term input from an orthoplastic team but also physiotherapy, rehabilitation and psychological support. We need orthopaedic kit, special dressings for the plastic surgery site and, in the long run, for rehabilitation. With this number of patients, this adds up to a lot of money. So it is really important to get the support to treat the patients and give them the best possibility to get back to as functional life as is possible.”

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