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Restoring Hope to Gaza

On 7 July 2014, following weeks of growing tensions over the tit-for-tat murders of three young Israeli students and a Palestinian teenager from East Jerusalem and rockets being fired out of Gaza, the Israeli army launched a large scale military operation in the coastal territory dubbed 'Operation Protective Edge'. In the course of the 51-day conflict over 2,100 people were killed and more than 11,000 wounded. The majority of casualties in Gaza were civilians, including 500 children and 257 women.

Also available: two short films

Abdullah's story 2.48
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Second version including interviews with NHS surgeons who treated him 3.39

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The huge number of injured was largely the result of much of the fighting and recurrent Israeli air raids being carried out in densely populated areas. Many of the most serious injuries were of a complex nature requiring specialist reconstructive surgery and long-term care to make proper rehabilitation possible.

This unprecedented volume of people needing urgent and long term care for complex injuries has put a huge strain on Gaza's health system. In the chaos of war some surgeries were carried out as temporary solutions for complicated injuries in order to make room for the huge influx of war wounded being brought in daily. Some of these operations now need to be redone. Around half of all the medical equipment used in Gaza's hospitals is not working, according to a Health and Nutrition Cluster report and there is a dire shortage of much needed spare parts. Lacking such specialised equipment local surgeons have struggled to perform reconstructive procedures which would allow those injured in the war to resume some sort of normality in their lives.

In response to the large numbers of casualties, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) provided funding for British charities Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and IDEALS, to send teams of specialist British surgeons to Gaza, to help Palestinian doctors treat some of the most severely injured people.

Over the last six months, teams of six highly skilled British orthopaedic and plastic surgeons from the NHS have been volunteering their time, rotating in and out of Gaza. Each mission of 6 specialists spends one week per month in the city, seeing as many patients as possible in the time available. In addition to performing actual surgical work, the specialists also hold training symposia and workshops for Palestinian doctors, helping local surgeons gain invaluable experience in complex procedures. Photojournalist Abbie Trayler-Smith travelled with one of the teams to document their work in December 2014.

26 February 2015 marks six months since the declaration of the ceasefire that ended the 2014 conflict.

MAP has been working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for over 30 years, working for the health and dignity of Palestinians living under occupation and as refugees. IDEALS was established in 2000 to help relieve poverty, distress and suffering in any part of the world affected by conflict or natural disaster, and specialises in the provision of primary health care services in emergencies.

The UK government's support to MAP and IDEALS was part of a package of more than 17 million in emergency humanitarian assistance, to help deliver lifesaving food, clean water, shelter and medical assistance.

Britain has also committed a further 20 million in early recovery assistance, which will help with the disposal of unexploded ordnance, rubble clearance programmes and more reconstructive surgery for those injured in the conflict.

For further information and interviews with individuals pictured here, please get in touch the agency.
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