International Medical Corps is horrified by the Hamas terrorist attacks and the loss of lives in Israel. In Gaza, the mounting civilian death toll is horrendous, and the devastating humanitarian conditions are worsening dramatically. All parties must respect civilian lives and adhere to international humanitarian law. Urgent humanitarian assistance for families is critically needed across the region.
In Israel, we do not have an operational presence and, as is often our practice, when we don’t have an operational presence on the ground, we support trusted partners who are responding. International Medical Corps is supporting one of our long-time partners—JDC—and its emergency response efforts in Israel. JDC has also supported our humanitarian missions around the world.
In Gaza, we do have an operational presence, and have had staff on the ground since 2008. International Medical Corps is responding by distributing essential medical supplies and equipment, supporting medical services, providing mental health, nutrition and protection services, and strengthening the water, sanitation and hygiene sector. We are expanding our response as conditions permit.
In response to the current crises, we are pursuing a multi-pronged, integrated approach focusing on immediate relief to save lives, alleviate suffering, promote well-being and contribute to ensuring longer term resilience. Our response will focus on:
- increasing access to and availability of quality lifesaving medical and mental health services;
- improving access to and availability of quality nutrition services;
- reducing the risks and mitigate the consequences of gender-based violence (GBV) and addressing child protection concerns; and
- improving access to safe drinking water and ensure proper hygiene practices.
We’re also in discussion with the WHO EMT Secretariat and relevant parties about the possibility of deploying our Emergency Medical Team (EMT) Type 1, Fixed or Mobile configurations, with our special team ready to go, conditions permitting.
Medical and Mental Health Services
The conflict has severely impacted the delivery of basic services—including health, nutrition, protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)— while reducing supplies of water, food and fuel. Lack of potable water, linked to poor hygiene and sanitation, could trigger risks of infectious-disease outbreaks that the compromised health system in Gaza will not be able to respond to. As in any conflict, mental health needs are high, as the conflict is causing psychological distress and trauma to many, especially those who have witnessed or experienced violence, displacement and loss of loved ones or livelihoods.
Many secondary healthcare facilities have been damaged or destroyed, leaving behind major hospitals that are focusing mostly on immediate needs, such as emergency and trauma care. The lack of services and medication to treat routine or chronic health conditions could lead to the exacerbation of such conditions, as well as increase the risk of acute illnesses among the population.
To support the health system in Gaza, International Medical Corps is procuring and delivering essential medications, supplies and equipment to hospitals and health facilities. We will be providing healthcare providers and first responders with training on how to provide emergency- and trauma-care services, including psychological first aid (PFA). We are working with partners to deliver primary healthcare services, and will ensure that we integrate MHPSS and PFA into the health services that we and our partners deliver.
Increasing malnutrition also is a risk, especially for vulnerable groups that already may have issues accessing food, such as children, the elderly, and pregnant and lactating women.
The restrictions in food, water and other vital supplies has led to increased vulnerabilities for the Gaza population. International Medical Corps is expert in delivering infant, young-child and maternal nutrition services and supplies during emergencies and will work closely with local and international partners—including UNICEF and the World Food Programme—to provide assistance. We also will leverage our network of community health volunteers to monitor local populations for signs of malnutrition.
The risk for gender-based violence and child abuse also is very high, while unaccompanied minors and orphans are at heightened risk of poor health, malnutrition and violence.
We are working with partners to identify protection risks at shelters and other sites and will address concerns about GBV directly and in coordination with other organizations. We will integrate GBV response services into mobile health units that we and our partners send out into communities, can provide case management and psychosocial support services in women’s and girls’ safe spaces that we already have set up in Gaza, and plan to train first responders—including women-led organizations—in GBV-oriented PFA.
The child-protection services we provide will include referrals for emergency healthcare; identification, documentation and immediate tracing of unaccompanied minors; and emergency alternative care for unaccompanied children. We also will provide PFA, psychosocial support, risk mitigation, coordination and advocacy services. We will establish mobile child-protection teams staffed by trained community volunteers who will identify and refer vulnerable or children at risk, as well as separated or unaccompanied minors, and will support and expand our existing child-friendly spaces where we and our partners can provide services.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH)
To ensure safe and adequate drinking water for households and healthcare facilities, and reduce the risk of water-borne illnesses, International Medical Corps is planning to provide water trucking, install communal water tanks, distribute water-purification tablets and educate community members on proper hygiene practices.
We also will focus on sanitation, rehabilitating latrines and providing safe temporary waste-disposal facilities equipped with handwashing stations. Finally, we will work closely with healthcare facilities to provide training on and ensure proper implementation of infection prevention and control practices, providing cleaning and disinfecting tools and supplies where necessary.
International Medical Corps has been operating in Gaza since 2008, implementing emergency preparedness and response programs, and providing services in primary and secondary healthcare, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), child protection, and gender-based violence prevention and response.