A physical therapist wearing a vest with an HI logo on the back watches as an injured man walks on crutches in Gaza in 2018

After ceasefire announcement, HI prepares to rehabilitate over 500

Ceasefire between Gaza and Israel enables local teams in Gaza to launch rehabilitation services for more than 500 people.

Twelve days after the most recent escalation of violence in Gaza, the parties involved have announced a ceasefire. 

This long-awaited break comes after nearly eight days of constant bombings resulted in 242 lives lost between Gaza and Israel, including 67 children and 43 women. More than 1,700 people are injured.

“We’ve been waiting for a ceasefire,” says Laurent Palustran, Humanity & Inclusion’s country manager for the region. “We can now start responding to humanitarian needs with more ease and be able to intensify the distribution of a lot more aid than what we’ve done so far.”

According to a recent report by the UNWRA, approximately 91,000 people have been internally displaced, over 66,000 of whom have sought refuge in 58 UNWRA schools opened as emergency shelters. Humanity & Inclusion teams have conducted needs assessments of those displaced people to determine next steps. 

“We’re starting to get clearer data thanks to these evaluations,” Palustran explains. “We have identified over 500 people in these shelters that have disabilities and are in need.” 

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Reham Shaheen, Humanity & Inclusion’s Rehabilitation Task Force Coordinator in Gaza, explains the needs of the vulnerable populations the organization serves in areas of conflict.

“Psychosocial support is one of the greatest needs,” Shaheen says. “Many will lose a limb or an organ and will have psychological needs afterwards. People really need mental health and counseling to cope with the current situation. Then there is great need for multidisciplinary rehabilitation services, like physical therapy and wound dressing sessions to prevent disabilities after injury.

“Usually the needs of injured people change after a few weeks. There is either deterioration or improvement in their condition, so there is dire need for assistive devices and rehabilitation support as well.” 

Humanity & Inclusion is prepared to distribute mobility aids such as crutches, walkers and wheelchairs, along with Infection Prevention and Control kits to keep wounds clean and prevent infection that could lead to long-term ailments. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has not let up in Gaza, with Johns Hopkins reporting a total of 304,532 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, and 3,448 deaths between Gaza and the West Bank.

“This escalation occurred while we’re being hit with a second wave of Covid-19,” Shaheen explains. “We have two emergencies, so there is a need for hygiene kits. People need to have clean environments to be able to avoid illness, and in terms of injuries, to keep their wounds clean to avoid any infections.” 

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Image: A Humanity & Inclusion physical therapist assists an injured civilian in a rehabilitation session in Gaza in 2018. Copyright: Hardy Skills/HI