UK-Med, the only British NGO to run a WHO-verified Emergency Medical Team, have announced their presence in Gaza. Over a period of two weeks, UK-Med’s surgical team, working with local health staff, have performed 22 surgical procedures and 44 Intensive Care Unit interventions.
David Wightwick, the charity’s CEO, accompanied the team when they first arrived. “We went into Gaza at the request of the World Health Organization (WHO). In my 25 years of humanitarian aid work, this is by far the most challenging situation I have seen, and we are incredibly grateful to our highly trained humanitarian teams. They are enduring incredibly difficult working conditions, providing around the clock surgery for the wounded – of which a devastatingly high percentage are children.”
UK-Med has launched an urgent appeal for funds to help scale up its operations. The call comes as surgical teams, working as part of UK-Med’s EMT, which can deploy a range of humanitarian experts in emergency medicine, deploy in Gaza at the request of the World Health Organization.
Mr Shehan Hettiaratchy, a plastic and reconstruction surgeon, has deployed with UK-Med several times, including to Ukraine. Speaking about his recent deployment to Gaza, he said: “We saw and treated large numbers of women, men and children with both new and older blast injuries resulting in amputations and other life-changing consequences. Many of the older injuries needed repeat surgeries due to infection. Hospitals we are working in are hugely overcrowded and many surgical patients are leaving with open wounds to move into untenable conditions in tents, which increases their risk of infection and complications.”
UK-Med will rotate a roster of highly specialised surgical teams for two-week periods of deployment. David Wightwick said “As long as the WHO requires us, we’ll do our very best to be there” says Wightwick. “As the world has seen, the needs in Gaza are overwhelming. Therefore, we urgently need the support of the British public to help us fund this life-saving work. We have a thirty-year history of working to save lives in emergencies, which is why we felt we had to immediately respond to the call when it came.”