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Gaza, blessure traumatique, MSF


“After more than a year my leg hasn’t healed yet. The pain never leaves me”

Rida, a woman injured during the protests in Gaza, is doing some exercises with the help of an MSF physiotherapist and got tired by the pain. October 2019. © Virginie Nguyen Hoang
Between March 2018 and December 2019, 8,800 people were injured with live ammunitions by the Israeli army while attending the “Great March of Return”, along the fence separating Gaza from Israel. After more than two years since the beginning of the protests, most of those people still need follow-up surgeries, prolonged treatment for infected wounds and require long courses of rehabilitation and specific care. The threat of COVID-19 is making their excruciating recovery process even harder and longer, since many medical services and activities had to be reduced or temporarily suspended.

    Indeed, since March 2020, MSF has had to adapt its medical activities in Gaza to be compliant with all the measures recommended by the Ministry of Health to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. But the organization is still doing its utmost to ensure the follow-up of the patients, even in these exceptional circumstances.

    Rida, 45, is one of these patients in Gaza. She was injured in December 2018 during the Great March of Return protests.

    “I went to the protest with my son and my daughter to peacefully demonstrate against the miserable conditions that the blockage imposes on Gaza. I was unarmed; I was holding a Palestinian flag and my daughter’s hand. But when we arrived I saw that people were falling because Israeli snipers on the other side of the fence were shooting on us. I got closer to help those injured; I started carrying away the wounded people lying on the ground,” remembers Rida. 

    “I was shot in the leg and I passed out. Few hours later, I woke up in a hospital, fearing for my leg to be amputated.”

    The bullet hit Rida in her right tibia and ripped apart at least 10 cm of her bone. Since then, Rida has gone through a long and excruciating process to save her leg. She stayed for 5 months in the hospital, and has undergone three main surgical procedures and different interventions to clean and dress the wound.

    Her leg, still surrounded by a metallic external fixator whit 28 pins to keep her bones in place, needs further surgeries, physiotherapy and treatment.

    “After more than a year my leg hasn’t healed yet. I still have an external fixator and the pain never leaves me,” she says.

    “The doctors told me that I have a long way to go, but I’m determined to get my life back and walk again. I used to provide for my family, working in a kindergarten, but now I cannot even stand on my own. My husband is fragile; he has a mental illness, so I have to be the mother and the father for my five daughters and four sons. None of them has a job. The only thing I want now is to stand up and take care of my family.”

    Due to COVID-19 pandemic and the preventive measures in place in all the health facilities in Gaza, Rida had to reduce the frequent medical and physiotherapy sessions at the MSF clinic.

    Since March 2020, Rida goes to the MSF clinic in Gaza city once per month for dressing, medications and the orthopedic consultation. She continues to receive regular physiotherapy sessions and psychosocial support by phone.