Gaza Strip: WHO Rising To Growing Trauma, Emergency Care Needs

Akanimo Sampson

Akanimo Sampson

The World Health Organisation (WHO) delivered essential medicines, medical consumables and equipment to respond to the growing trauma and emergency care needs in the Gaza Strip.

The shipment was possible through a generous contribution from the European Union.

Supplies delivered by WHO will be used to enhance the ability of the 10 trauma stabilisation points (TSPs), run by the Ministry of Health and the Palestine Red Crescent Society, to provide life- and limb-saving care to those injured during demonstrations and protests.

Interventions provided at the TSPs are of vital importance as trauma casualty rates remain high and the resources available in Gaza are scarce.

In response, WHO is working to strengthen all levels of trauma management and to ensure that at the pre-hospital level, the TSP teams have vital medicines and equipment for triage and initial treatment of the injured.

Before the shipment, WHO had earlier appealed for $ 5.3 million to provide life- and limb-saving interventions to massive numbers of injured patients overwhelming an already fragile health system in Gaza.

The upcoming one-year anniversary of the Great March of Return on March 30, could result in further casualties and an increase in people requiring trauma care and rehabilitation services.

Funding was urgently required to ensure the minimum resources are available to immediate health needs, as well as enhance the quality of trauma and emergency care in the Gaza Strip and reduce mortality and morbidity among an at-risk population of two million people.

‘’The sheer magnitude of trauma needs in Gaza is immense. Every week injured patients continue to arrive at hospitals requiring complex long-term treatment. The requested financial support will help not just to address critical service gaps but ensure that we can work with our partners to scale up treatment capacities to provide immediate lifesaving care for emergency cases and to strengthen rehabilitation’’, says Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, head of WHO’s office for the occupied Palestinian territory.

Since the start of the demonstrations in March 2018, over 29,000 people have been injured, with more than 6,500 suffering from gunshot wounds requiring long-term specialised surgical treatment and rehabilitation, for which the Gaza Strip faces persistent capacity gaps.

The massive burden of trauma casualties also affects the provision of other essential services, directly impacting capacities to provide neonatal and maternal care services and to manage chronic disease patients. Elective surgeries have to be postponed and suspended, hospital beds are reallocated and reserved for surgical patients, health staff and ambulances have to prioritize the immediate emergency needs.

In 2018, WHO supported the Ministry of Health and the Palestine Red Crescent Society to upgrade the trauma stabilisation points (TSPs) in proximity to the fence with Israel, so that the wounded can receive life-saving treatment close to the point of injury.

The scope of interventions provided on-site at the TSPs has continuously expanded to cover triage, life- and limb-saving first aid and initial treatment and this has substantially reduced the burden on hospitals, with some 50% of the injured being treated and discharged at the TSPs.

The $ 5.3 million will be used to build on the previous success of the WHO supported interventions and ensure better health outcomes for Palestinians through strengthened continuum of care along the pathway of trauma patients.

However, the shipment was sufficient to cover needs of about 120 000 mildly injured or 20 000 severely injured patients. In addition to medicines and medical supplies, WHO delivered four tents for each TSP to make sure the teams have adequate space to treat patients with different levels of trauma severity.

Five TSPs were equipped with generators to run basic services, such as oxygen provision for patients. WHO will also provide the TSP teams with inflatable tents that can be set up within minutes in case of emergency and provide the flexibility to be moved quickly to alternative locations to treat people in need.

‘’Resource gaps in trauma care may lead to preventable long-term disability or even worse health outcomes. WHO and humanitarian health partners are working together to ensure that TSPs have the capacity to stabilize patients, to decrease the risk of preventable trauma complications or the loss of limbs, and to ensure better health outcomes’’, says Rockenschaub, adding, ‘’we are grateful to the European Union for their continuous support that helps us to support essential trauma services in the Gaza Strip.’’

Currently, the majority of all trauma patients are passing through the trauma stabilisation points, where almost half of them are being treated and discharged while others receive the necessary care to stabilize them for the referral to the hospital for further interventions.

In addition to the massive existing trauma needs, the upcoming one-year anniversary of the Great March of Return may result in more casualties.

WHO and health cluster partners developed a contingency plan to address the health needs within the 96-hours of a potential escalation of the situation in Gaza and to prevent death and disability.

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