Gaza: Our open letter to Rishi Sunak calling for an immediate ceasefire
MSF UK general director Natalie Roberts, and President & Chair of the Board of Trustees, Nicola McClean, have written to the Prime Minister urging him to do everything in his power to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.
Dear Mr Sunak and Mr Cleverly,
We are writing to urgently request that the UK government does everything within its power to call for an immediate ceasefire to prevent more deaths in Gaza and to allow desperately needed humanitarian supplies in. We were extremely disappointed to see the UK abstain from supporting a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a humanitarian truce.
The bombing by the Israeli forces has intensified to a degree not seen until now: northern Gaza is being razed to the ground, while the whole Strip is being incessantly bombed. Since the horrific mass killings of civilians by Hamas on 7 October, the Israeli Defense Forces have unleashed more than 11,000 bombs on a tiny strip of land that is only 25 miles long. Civilians, including more than 300 MSF staff, have no safe place to take shelter. Thousands have been killed, and many more injured.
Colleagues describe attempting life-saving surgeries in unhygienic corridors, with inadequate analgesia or anaesthesia.
Across Gaza, the number of injured in need of urgent medical assistance far exceeds the capacity of the health system. Hospitals such as Al Shifa in Gaza City, where Palestinian MSF colleagues continue to work, are overwhelmed with patients and tens of thousands of others seeking safe shelter. Israeli military orders to evacuate such hospitals are therefore impossible and dangerous. Under international humanitarian law, patients, health workers and medical facilities must be protected at all times.
In addition, over two million men, women, and children are facing an inhumane siege; a collective punishment that is also prohibited under international humanitarian law. Prior to 7 October, between 300 and 500 supply trucks crossed into Gaza every day. Only 84 trucks have entered since 20 October: an entirely inadequate response to the constant and growing needs. Israeli authorities continue to prevent the entry of fuel, which is essential for powering hospitals as well as the desalination plants that produce clean drinking water.
We are deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues in Gaza. Some have moved to the south of Gaza to attempt to find shelter from the bombing. They sleep outdoors or in overcrowded shelters, where they have little or no access to clean water. Some have pre-existing health concerns; many are in a state of acute and extreme distress.
We have teams on standby ready to send medical supplies... But as long as the bombing continues with the current intensity, any effort to increase medical aid will inevitably fall short.
Other colleagues continue to work and provide life-saving care in hospitals across the Gaza Strip, even while the most basic protections for hospitals and medical personnel are not guaranteed. They describe attempting life-saving surgeries in unhygienic corridors, with inadequate analgesia or anaesthesia. All our colleagues describe their terror at the relentless bombardment that continues across the entirety of Gaza. Those who wish to seek safety across the border in Egypt should be allowed to do so immediately without prejudice to their right to return to Gaza.
MSF stands ready to increase our aid capacity in Gaza. We have teams on standby ready to send medical supplies, and who are willing to enter Gaza to support the emergency medical response as soon as the situation allows. But as long as the bombing continues with the current intensity, any effort to increase medical aid will inevitably fall short.
We note the UK Government’s recent comments that “aid is a lifeline for those suffering” in Gaza, and its call for “humanitarian access”. However, these calls ring hollow if the UK is not prepared to push for the conditions needed to allow meaningful and desperately-needed humanitarian assistance to be delivered.
The UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and therefore has the power to propose and support all efforts towards a ceasefire. We implore you to act in demanding an urgent ceasefire in Gaza to prevent further deaths and allow for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid, and for the protection of civilians and healthcare facilities on both sides and at all times.
Dr Natalie Roberts, Executive Director, MSF UK
Nicola McLean, President and Chair of the Board of Trustees, MSF UK