Today, we’re sharing an update from our friends at International Health Partners (IHP) about their work and support of Anera, who are on the ground in Gaza helping care for people affected by the ongoing violence. In October 2023, the incredible Medical Teams community came together to support the work of IHP and Anera, raising more than $15,000 for urgently needed medical supplies in Gaza. IHP is a trusted member — alongside Medical Teams — of the Integral Alliance, a network of Christian organizations that work collaboratively when disaster strikes to help people in need. Working in tandem with other organizations helps all of us increase the efficiency, efficacy, and quality of our responses.

We’re proud to partner with IHP, an incredible global health organization that distributes vital medicines and supports people in disaster-hit and vulnerable communities. Their goal — a world where suffering due to lack of health care is eradicated — resonates strongly with us at Medical Teams!

Read on to hear more from IHP about the situation in Gaza today, and how they’re helping during the ongoing crisis.

From IHP: Helping Heal in Gaza

IHP helped provide the supplies to Anera for a free medical day. Photo by Anera.

“Getting to where I am at now was one of the most terrifying times in my life; I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it.”

This a reflection of the past six months from Saida, a 36-year-old mother from Gaza who is now internally displaced with her eleven children near Khan Younis. Memories of the past and the reality of the present makes it difficult to be hopeful for the future.

“The uncertainty of the future weighs heavily on me.”

– Saida, a mother in Gaza

Lives have forever been changed as a result of the violent coordinated attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 by the militant group Hamas, killing around 1,200 people and taking over 200 people hostage. In the five months of war that has followed, military bombardment of the Gaza strip by air and sea, and a ground invasion, have caused significant civilian casualties, mass displacement, and widespread destruction of infrastructure.

More than 31,000 Palestinians have now been killed in Gaza, with around 72% of those killed reported to be women and children. Over 70,000 people have been injured and in addition, an estimated 1.7 million Palestinians are displaced within Gaza (nearly 75% of the total population). The violence has also escalated in other parts of the region including the West Bank and Lebanon. The shocking human cost of this crisis has left over 3 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Even before the recent escalation of conflict, the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian Territories was extremely challenging, and International Health Partners (IHP) had existing long-term programmes in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon. For 10 years we have partnered with Anera, an organisation providing humanitarian and development aid to the region since 1968, with a partnership that spans Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and Jordan. Since 2014, we have sent over 2 million units of medicines and medical supplies to Anera, supporting 3 million patients. These shipments have contained specialist oncology medication, medicines to help manage non-communicable diseases, mental health medication, primary healthcare products, and medication to manage and treat neglected tropical diseases.

The medical needs in Gaza have intensified and reached a catastrophic level, with many medical facilities no longer functioning. Hospitals are grappling with acute shortages of fuel, medicine and medical supplies whilst addressing extraordinarily high medical needs including injuries, disease outbreaks and malnutrition. Vital infrastructure has been destroyed, cutting off water and electricity, and further limiting access to healthcare.

In the West Bank, military operations, increased settler violence, forcible displacement and significant access and movement restrictions have all made accessing health services extremely difficult for Palestinians. Meanwhile in Lebanon months of airstrikes and artillery fire have displaced thousands of people, especially from the border areas. More than 90,000 people have been internally displaced and their access to healthcare disrupted.

“Hospitals are not places of hope anymore, nor of refuge or care — we cannot continue like this, Gaza is at breaking point, and it will break very soon.”

– Judith Starkulla, Head of Office in Gaza, United National Population Fund (UNFPA)

Despite incredibly limited and challenging access for humanitarian aid, when the new crisis erupted, IHP were well-positioned to launch a response immediately in collaboration with Anera. With support from Medical Teams International and others, IHP was able to quickly begin responding to the arising medical needs making use of three shipments of medicines that had arrived just a few weeks before the onset of the conflict. This meant patients were able to access treatment for a range of conditions including infections, diabetes, cancer, and mental health.

Anera, IHP’s partner organization in Gaza, holds an open health day in November 2023. Photo by Anera.

The danger from conflict and heightened restrictions on food and medical aid entering Gaza means that resourcing these remaining facilities, coupled with the overwhelming demand, is extremely difficult. The health services in the north are largely destroyed and we are now witnessing a healthcare system on the brink of collapse in the south as the hospitals in the Gaza Strip are overwhelmed by demand. The lack of supplies, medicine and electricity is resulting in four or five new-borns needing to share one incubator, increasing the risk of fatalities. Mothers are unable to attend prenatal or postnatal check-ups while the incessant bombings, while fleeing for safety and anxiety are leading to premature births. An estimated 5,500 women are due to give birth in the next month with limited access to medical assistance or healthcare.

The population are suffering from both long-term health conditions and trauma. The World Health Organization (WHO) have estimated that there are over 6,000 trauma related patients and 2,000 patients with serious chronic conditions such as cancer. It is vital that people experiencing these conditions not only receive medication urgently, but that there is a long-term supply available to them to ensure the best chances of survival. Yet instead, we are hearing from Anera that, “the war has placed Palestinians living with chronic diseases in an even more vulnerable position, including 342,100 patients with non-contagious diseases like diabetes, 485,000 people with mental health disorders, and 2,000 cancer patients. These patients were forcibly displaced without their medication or access to healthcare services amid brutal winter conditions and bombardment.”

An estimated 75% of the population is now displaced, putting enormous pressure on increasingly concentrated areas within the Gaza Strip. Mass displacement and a lack of access to clean water and sanitation have created an environment where opportunistic infections and diseases — including acute respiratory infections, diarrhea, scabies, and meningitis — have become rampant across the region.

Since October 7, IHP has sent five additional shipments in response to the crisis. Three of these have been sent to Gaza, one to the West Bank and one to Lebanon to support the health needs across the region. Working with our in-country partner Anera, and the support externally from Medical Teams International and others, we have been able to support more than 509,000 patients across the region with urgently needed medicines and supplies. This has included medicine to support cancer patients, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), essential medical supplies such as insulin needles, syringes and treatment to stop the spread of infections through antibiotics and water purification tablets.

Despite multiple challenges including access restrictions, frequent communications blackouts and the ongoing threat from air and ground hostilities, our medicines and supplies have arrived in-country with our partner. The complexities of ensuring safe arrival and even the delivery of the medicines across the border has been particularly challenging, but using our expertise and prior knowledge of working in the region, we have been able to successfully get medical aid into the affected areas.

Anera has been able to use the contents of these shipments to host more than 40 free medical days in Gaza between January and March 2024 to support patients in need of healthcare. This has included medical examinations, dental care, dermatological care, paediatric care, general medicines, and nursing care, including wound dressings. The distribution of medicines to civilians free of charge has been essential in ensuring that there is accessibility to medicines and a continuity of care for those with ongoing health needs.

Anera, supported by IHP and Medical Teams, holds a free medical day in Rafah in January 2024. Photo by Anera.

We currently have a further eight shipments planned to Gaza, West Bank and Lebanon as the conflict continues and anticipate that we will be sending more throughout the year. We are now seeing a great need for paediatric medicine including those to treat common infections. The continuing need of treatments such as antibiotics, medical supplies and medicine to support mental health and psychosocial support is still extremely high and so IHP is continuing to support where the need is greatest. This disaster response will dominate much of IHP’s work in 2024 as we not only respond to the immediate health needs but are committed in the long-term to rebuilding and strengthening health systems across the region.

“Supporting the health needs of people affected by the ongoing conflict is our number one priority. Collaboration, trust and problem-solving have been at the heart of our response, coming alongside our in-country partner even more closely to navigate the complexity of this crisis. The impact of this conflict has been devastating; no one has been left unscathed by the events of the last five months.”

“We are so grateful for the invaluable support of fellow Integral members like Medical Teams International and your amazing community, which has enabled us to continue to meet the health needs of people in Gaza and beyond. Being able to leverage support and resource through the Integral network, knowing we’re working with likeminded and values-driven organisations, is truly humbling.”

– IHP Programmes Team