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Gaza medical staff say they're missing critical resources to help hospitalized people


To Gaza now, where a third of medical facilities have already shut down. That's according to the U.N. Those still in operation are short on medical supplies and drinking water. And UNWRA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, says it is on the verge of running out of fuel to power its generators. Aid trucks are slowly bringing in supplies through the Rafah Crossing, but those shipments do not include fuel. Israel has banned fuel shipments to Gaza since the Hamas attack on October 7 that killed 1,400 Israelis. They say fuel could be diverted for use by Hamas militants. Well, we're going to hear now from someone with firsthand knowledge of the situation. Muhammad Hawajreh is a nurse at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, also medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders there.

Mohammed, welcome. And I want to ask just - I know you were just at the hospital half an hour before speaking with us. What is the condition there?

MUHAMMAD HAWAJREH: Thank you very much. Every day we go to Shifa Hospital to support the (inaudible) staff there. So it is close to 200 injured people on the floor there. And the shortage of the medical staff as well because the Israeli forces forced the Gaza Strip citizens to move to the south of Gaza. So before I leave the hospital, it was a hundred patients - a hundred injured people. On the ground, I was looking to some supplies. It was difficult. A lot of injury, a lot of wounded - So with shrapnel everywhere in the bodies. Actually, this war...

KELLY: Shrapnel everywhere in bodies, you said. Go on.

HAWAJREH: Yeah. And burn, burn, burn, you know?

KELLY: You're saying there aren't enough doctors. There aren't enough nurses. Tell me...

HAWAJREH: Yeah. No, there's not enough there.

KELLY: ...More about supplies, medicine, bandages - do you have them?

HAWAJREH: Actually, we donate. We donated some medical items like bandages and gauze from - sorry - from the - so close to us. Yeah, so we have a shortage of bandages. We have a shortage of gauzes as well. We have a shortage of medical lines, antibiotic IVs, a lot of important, important medications or medicines that should be given to the patients.

KELLY: Tell me more about the type of patients, the type of wounds you are seeing and trying to treat.

HAWAJREH: Actually, this war, it's not like the past escalation. This war - the rocket - it damaged the skin. They have deep burns, even shrapnel...

KELLY: Deep burns. Yeah.

HAWAJREH: So today I did - we did a dressing for 10 new burned-up (ph) patients inside the - in emergency. The percentage of the total body surface area on their bodies is close to 70% burns. And the burns are very deep. They need some debridement inside the operation theaters. I discussed with the medical director of the Shifa Hospital about the operation theater list. He said that there is 650 patients on the waiting list for doing plastic surgeries, like free flaps...

KELLY: Six hundred fifty patients on the waiting list for surgery.

HAWAJREH: Yeah - for plastic surgeries, orthopedic surgeries as well.

KELLY: Are you getting any sleep?

HAWAJREH: So, you know, we sleep like two, three hours, and we come back. So as I myself also - so the impulse is to leave Gaza. But we are taking the responsibility and the risk to stay with our people and to help them. And we don't care about taking rest. We just keeping on and providing medical care.

KELLY: Just last question because you've been telling me all about the work you're trying to do, the people you're trying to help. Just as we were getting on the line, you were telling me you've had to flee your home because it was attacked early in this war. Where are you going home to at night?

HAWAJREH: Yed. I'm staying - like my colleagues who are doctors and nurses - at MSF. So we stay in our office. So we stay with our family.

KELLY: So you're sleeping in the MSF - the Doctors Without Borders office.

HAWAJREH: Yeah, the Doctors Without Borders office. And we have two clinics in the other city. So it's not far away from Shifa, so that's why we come just across for an hour and come back again.

KELLY: Muhammad Hawajreh of Doctors Without Borders - in French, it's Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF. He's also a nurse at Al-Shifa Hospital. We've been speaking with him from Gaza City. Muhammad, thank you. Be well.

HAWAJREH: Ah, well, thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF STORMZY SONG, "FIRE + WATER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Gus Contreras
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.

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