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MSF, Cisjordanie, Covid-19, promotion de la santé, Hébron


Tackling COVID-19 in Hebron, the epicentre of the outbreak in Palestine

The health promotion supervisor conducts a Covid-19 health promotion activity with the children of a school in Al-Ramadin, a Palestinian village southwest of Hebron (West Bank). September 2020. © MSF
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Whether in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, the number of Covid-19 positive cases explodes in Palestine. More than 43,000 cases have been confirmed in the West Bank since the beginning of the pandemic, with more than a third recorded in the governorate of Hebron. Since August, MSF has been supporting local health authorities in the fight against the virus.

    Of the 300 deaths reported in Palestine since the start of the pandemic, almost half (141) were in Hebron.

    “Patients with COVID-19 can deteriorate rapidly and go from a severe to a critical stage,” says Helen Ottens-Patterson, MSF medical advisor in Hebron. “In this situation they need intensive care support with adapted oxygen therapy.”

    Hospital Support 

    MSF has built up experience responding to disease outbreaks over recent decades, and to COVID-19 specifically over recent months
    Helen Ottens-Patterson, MSF medical advisor in Hebron.

    ​“Hebron has been the epicentre of the outbreak in Palestine for a few months already,” says Katharina Lange, MSF project coordinator. “COVID-19 is a new disease and requires special attention, especially in places where people’s access to healthcare is already limited. MSF has built up experience responding to disease outbreaks over recent decades, and to COVID-19 specifically over recent months. We’ve been working in Hebron for over 20 years, so it made sense to support the health system here in facing this new challenge.”

    MSF’s response in Hebron focuses on supporting the local health system with infection prevention and control and providing technical support to the intensive care unit in Dura hospital, one of the main hospitals treating COVID-19 patients in the city.

    More than 550 patients have been admitted since its COVID-19 ward opened in early July. Dura hospital is currently scaling up its capacity to 80 beds for COVID-19 patients, including 8 intensive care beds with ventilators. In September, we also started providing technical support to Hebron’s Alia hospital, which also admits patients with COVID-19. 

    Disease prevention

    However, providing treatment for patients already infected with COVID-19 is not enough to slow the curve. “We also need to support prevention efforts, so that people don’t get infected in the first place,” says Lange.

    MSF teams have been carrying out health promotion activities in the most affected neighbourhoods in Hebron, and distributing hygiene kits and reusable face masks to people who are self-isolating and to first responders.

    “People should know how to protect themselves and their relatives properly before it’s too late and they get sick,” says Lange. MSF also plans to start health promotion activities in Dura and Alia hospitals.


    Mental health monitoring

    We have also stepped up our mental health activities in Hebron since the pandemic began. In March, MSF counsellors started supporting COVID-19 patients and their families as well as frontline health staff.

    This is in addition to our long-term psychological support programme in Hebron, which started in 2001, and which is aimed at adults, teenagers and children who have been affected, directly or indirectly, by violence (for example the deaths of family members, severe injuries, home demolitions, detention and domestic violence).

    MSF psychosocial teams provide individual and group sessions and psychotherapy sessions across Hebron governorate.

    “People’s mental health is just as important as their physical wellbeing, so we’re really trying to address the two in our COVID-19 response,” says Lange. “We’re currently in touch with other health facilities to further extend our support to those who need it.”