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Gaza health system collapse hits rehab services

November 20, 2023

A child wearing a cast on his arm lies on a bed. A man and woman lean over him.

HI staff and volunteers continue to assess needs and provide assistive devices and kits for people in designated emergency shelters, Rafah, Gaza. | © HI

Humanity & Inclusion’s new report, “Attacks on healthcare and Impacts on Physical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Services in Gaza,” shows Gaza’s healthcare system completely collapsed following massive and systematic bombing by Israeli forces, with painful consequences for the country’s rehabilitation sector. 

Since October 7, and the escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas, more than 11,000 people were killed and 27,000 injured in Gaza by continuous bombing by Israeli forces. Israel’s retaliatory response come after a massive attack launched by Hamas on October 7, killing 1,200 Israelis, and taking 240 hostages, including Israelis and foreign nationals (236 people are still being held).

Bombings fracture hospitals

Israel’s massive and systematic bombing has had a devastating impact on the healthcare system and medical personnel in Gaza. 

On October 15, the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetics in Gaza reported severe damage following an Israeli airstrike. The hospital is the first facility specialized in fitting people with artificial limbs and providing rehabilitation care in the Gaza Strip. The hospital had already been damaged in a previous Israeli bombardment in 2021.

The wider health sector is suffering. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that 22 out of 36 hospitals are out of service, with only one hospital still operating in the north of Gaza (as of November 14). 

According to the World Health Organization, at least 521 people, including 16 medical workers, have been killed in 137 “attacks on health care” in Gaza as of November 12.

“Injured and sick people are at risk as they cannot access any more regular health services, due to the closure of services and the continuous bombing. At the moment, in northern Gaza, doctors are only able to offer patients the most basic assistance and conduct only emergency lifesaving surgeries, often under flashlights or telephone flashlights and with a minimal number of anesthetics and pain killers.” — Danila Zizi, Humanity & Inclusion Country Director for Occupied Palestinian Territories

Acute shortages of rehabilitation and mental health services

Systematic bombing and shelling have caused significant damage to rehabilitation and mental health infrastructure. According to the Rehabilitation Task Force in Gaza, of which Humanity & Inclusion is a member, two rehabilitation hospitals were severely damaged, forcing them to freeze activities. 

The only psychiatric hospital in the Gaza Strip serving all the governorates was also bombed. 

“At the Indonesian Hospital, there were around six or seven rehabilitation specialists, but tragically, some were killed during bombings, some lost their homes, and others are still unable to reach hospitals due to ongoing bombardments, destroyed infrastructure, and a shortage of fuel to move. This means only one or two specialists can report to work, but the number of injured people is too high to accommodate.” — Ahmad (not his real name), physical therapist displaced from the North, currently serving in a hospital in the South, Rafah, Gaza.

This dramatic impact on the rehabilitation system arrives as needs for functional rehabilitation are skyrocketing due to the number of injured people. Rehabilitation helps people to maintain or regain mobility and helps to avoid permanent impairment. 

Even before the ongoing violence, 58% of the adult Palestinian population exhibited symptoms consistent with depression according to the World Health Organization’s well-being index. In addition, about 7% of adults in the West Bank & Gaza screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (West Bank and Gaza - Palestinians' Psychological Conditions Survey 2022 - World Bank Report generated on: April 3, 2023). 

Humanity & Inclusion, which launched in 1982 in aid of Cambodian landmine victims, has a long history of supporting persons injured by conflict, and a deep understanding of the complex trauma weapons can inflict on the human body. The organization's 2019 report, "The Waiting List," sourced data from the Syria conflict and explained the immediate and long-term needs of victims of explosive weapons. A 2019 "Study Annex" to "The Waiting List" outlined the four ways that explosive weapons physically harm human bodies. 

Humanitarian consequences of blackouts and shortages

The total blackout for 34 consecutive days and shortage of fuel, potable water, medicines and supplies, added to the heavy bombardments on hospitals, have forced medical staff to discontinue services or to shut down wards or entire departments.

Due to fuel shortage, Gaza’s health facilities cannot run generators to deliver lifesaving healthcare, ambulances cannot run, water desalination plants cannot function, and other services, such as garbage disposal, are stopped.

Since October 7, Gaza has been cut off from water and electricity networks, while all crossings for import of fuel and goods have been closed, leaving Gaza’s population without the most basic needs for survival.

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, 40 persons with injuries died due to the complexity of their injuries and infection of wounds. Those people would have been treated and would have survived in normal times.


Humanity & Inclusion calls on all parties to the conflict to stop the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas such as Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. Humanity & Inclusion is also supporting #CeasefireNow, an open call for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and Israel to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and further loss of innocent lives and ensure humanitarian aid can be delivered rapidly and safely.

Humanity & Inclusion's intervention in Gaza

Humanity & Inclusion has been working in Gaza and the West Bank since 1996, and is responding to the emergency. 

To date, Humanity & Inclusion has reached 90 of 91 shelters in the South and assessed the needs of more than 4,200 people who are internally displaced. Humanity & Inclusion has supported more than 1,100 people. For instance, teams have distributed assistive and mobility devices to 575 people, as well as hundreds of bandages and wound dressings, kitchen utensils, dignity kits, diapers and baby blankets.

The association has organized leisure activities for approximately 18,000 children and youth. Around 20 staff and 75 volunteers and partner personnel are mobilized for rehabilitation, equipment distributions and recreational activities. Humanity & Inclusion also conducted 74 risk education sessions with safety messages for thousands of children and adults.

Spokesperson available for media requests 

  • Noor Bimbashi, Advocacy Officer, Humanity & Inclusion — Palestine

  • Daniela Zizi, Country Manager, Humanity & Inclusion — Palestine 

  • Mara Bernasconi, Advocacy and Policy Officer, Humanity & Inclusion — Middle East


Elizabeth Johnson Sellers,
Communications Director

Email: e[email protected]
Phone: +1 (240) 450-3538
Mobile: +1 (270) 847-3443


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