The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that came into effect on Wednesday, November 21, brought an end to more than a week of airstrikes.
Handicap International, which runs services for people with disabilities in the Palestinian Territories, was forced to suspend its activities in the Gaza Strip during the upsurge of violence.
According to the United Nations, this latest conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which began on November 14, left 140 people dead and 1,200 injured in Gaza, and five people dead and 219 injured in Israel. More than 200 homes were destroyed in Gaza and 1,500 were partially damaged.
“Gaza is fairly calm at the moment,” said David, Handicap International's head of mission in the Palestinian Territories. “Everyone is relieved that the airstrikes are over, including our team, which was just as exposed to the bombing as everyone else. Our top priority at the moment is to get back to work at the earliest opportunity and to assess the impact of this new conflict, particularly on the most vulnerable people.”
Even before the ceasefire, Handicap International's team in Gaza remained in contact with several partners to plan an immediate response to the humanitarian emergency. The organization has been visiting hospitals to assess people's needs and to organize follow-up care for the injured once they return to their families.
“We're concentrating on reaching the elderly, children, pregnant women, and people with disabilities,” David says. “Violent conflicts like this one tend to leave these groups in a very vulnerable position. Our team, in conjunction with our partners, will make sure these people are identified, case-managed, treated in hospital, and given long-term follow-up care to help them recover properly.”
Handicap International will also investigate the ability of health facilities to supply technical aids to the injured once they leave hospital. The conflict has been especially traumatic for children with disabilities and their families who bear the obvious psychological scars of the conflict. The organization will provide them with psychological support to help them recover from the shock of what they've experienced. We are also exploring the possibility of running risk education activities on explosive remnants of war.