Flemish Doctors Without Borders coordinator among first to be evacuated from Gaza

The coordinator of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Flanders left Gaza on Wednesday via the Rafah border crossing as part of an evacuation agreement between Israel, Hamas, Egypt and the US mediated by Qatar, VRT reported on Friday.

Matthias Kennes, who is now in the Egyptian capital Cairo, spent the last 26 days working in the Gaza Strip. "It was very emotional to leave," he said. “When I was finally able to cross the border, I felt relieved, but my departure left a sour aftertaste." He spoke about his worry for his Palestinian colleagues and their inability to leave due to lack of foreign nationality.

In 2021, Kennes went to Gaza for the first time with MSF and has since worked with the same people each time he is in the region. "They have become family," he said. "It is my Palestinian colleagues who saved me, thanks to their resilience and positivity. It is difficult to leave them behind, knowing they can be affected."

The conditions in which he and his team worked were "very difficult, often without means of communication. In addition, I slept very little and we had to ration food," he said.

"All hospitals need support," he added. "MSF's priority is surgery. We have 26 tonnes of aid and medical teams ready to send to Rafah. We want to help in hospitals in southern Gaza, but that must first be discussed with the Ministry of Health in Gaza.”

"On Sunday, October 29, we sent 26 tonnes of medical supplies on a WHO plane to #Egypt, coordinated by the Egyptian Red Crescent, to support the emergency medical response in #Gaza"
"On Sunday, October 29, we sent 26 tonnes of medical supplies on a WHO plane to #Egypt, coordinated by the Egyptian Red Crescent, to support the emergency medical response in #Gaza"

With no indication of a ceasefire in the near future, Kennes warns of the health situation beyond injuries from bombardment. "We see complaints such as diarrhoea, but also skin diseases, typical in such contexts. And then we also have all the people with chronic conditions such as diabetes. Their medication has almost run out. This can all lead to hundreds, and even thousands, of additional deaths."


#FlandersNewsService | Palestinians and foreign nationals at the Rafah border crossing in Gaza © PHOTO IMAGO

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