Vallaperta (MSF): “Palestinians of Gaza without hope, decades for reconstruction”

Having returned to Italy after a month in the Strip, the medical coordinator of the al-Aqsa hospital states that ”bombing and killing tens of thousands of people to eliminate the tunnels cannot be the solution. I have never seen weapons and tunnels in hospitals”.

They are an ”absolute demoralization”, the ”lack of hope”, the ”inability to look to the future, the feelings that reign at the moment” among the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip. Because ”even if the war ended at this moment it would take dozens of years to return to a normal life”, after all ”more than 50 percent of the Strip is completely razed to the ground”. Enrico Vallaperta explains it to Adnkronos who for about a month, from 18 December to 20 January, was medical coordinator of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) at the al Aqsa hospital in the center of the Palestinian enclave and has recently returned to Italy. Today at the Chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee he participated in a parliamentary hearing on Gaza and, thanks to his perspective as someone who lived in the Strip during the Israeli retaliation, he asked on behalf of MSF for ”a lasting ceasefire and to encourage the the entry of medical and logistical material and food into the Strip as much as possible”. Because ”the quantity of trucks is absolutely insufficient to satisfy the needs of 2 million people”.

Another ”necessary step is to evacuate the wounded so that they can receive the necessary care” which they cannot receive in Gaza ”because there is a lack of facilities”. In this sense ”I hope that the Palestinian children evacuated to Italy represent a first step. At the moment the numbers of medical evacuations are absolutely negligible and should increase”. Of MSF’s Palestinian colleagues in Gaza, Vallaperta says that ”some of them had to change refuge up to nine times. They kept moving and have reached a point where they no longer see a future”. And ”it will take a very long time to rebuild everything necessary and to provide the care needed in the long term for thousands of people”, for example for ”the thousands who have suffered amputations”. Despite this, ”Palestinian doctors do not stop working to help others, even putting their lives at risk”.

”Bombing and killing tens of thousands of people to eliminate the tunnels” dug by Hamas ”cannot be the solution, it is not ethically possible”. Among other things, ”I have never seen, my colleagues have never seen, the presence of tunnels or weapons in the hospitals of the Gaza Strip,” explains Vallaperta. Exactly one month ago, on January 6, MSF decided to evacuate from al-Aqsa hospital ”which was under siege” and Vallaperta was ”one of those who evacuated”. The situation had become ”too dangerous for us and for the national Palestinian staff” of MSF, with ”ground fighting 700 meters from the hospital” and ”bombings 200 meters”.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was ”a mortar shell in the intensive care unit”. The situation now seems to be calmer so much so that, explains Vallaperta, ”since yesterday some of my colleagues from MSF have returned to al-Aqsa hospital to gradually and slowly resume their activities”. But ”the biggest problem in the hospital, as in all of Gaza, is the absolute lack of space. Outside the hospital for people to create shelter, inside the hospital for the wounded. In al-Aqsa hospital the number of patients has gone from 240 to 700”, in addition to which there are ”thousands of displaced people who take refuge in the hospital because they consider it the least unsafe place to be”. It is inappropriate to talk about ‘beds’ because, explains Vallaperta, ”we didn’t know where to put the patient undergoing surgery”, while ”in the emergency room the patients were managed on the floor”