Amro, Mohammad and Mahmoud are among the 36,000 people who were injured during the “Great March of Return'” protests. These demonstrations were held near the security fence between Gaza and Israel every Friday between 30 March 2018 and December 2019, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1948 exodus, an event known to Palestinians as the “Naqba”. Muawiyah was injured during the 2021 bombing of the Gaza Strip by the Israeli forces. Like 152 fellow Palestinians, they suffered amputations to prevent the risk of infection in their wounds.
Photographer Giles Duley lost two legs and an arm after stepping on a mine in Afghanistan in 2011. “I'm a photographer, a chef and a writer, but I'm an amputee myself. Their stories resonate in a very personal way.”
During the 2018-2019 protests, MSF tripled its medical capacity to care for the injured, offering plastic and orthopaedic surgery, as well as treatment for bone infection resulting from the injuries. MSF also provided post-operative follow-up, including dressing changes, physiotherapy, pain management and psychosocial support. Between the first demonstration on 30 March 2018 and 30 November 2019, MSF hospitalised more than 4,830 people in its trauma units.
Four years after the protests began many patients are still dealing with the devastating consequences of their injuries, which have taken an increasingly heavy toll on their lives and those of their loved ones. For many, the severity of the injury makes amputation inevitable.
“If you don't get an amputation when you should,” says Herwig Drobetz, an MSF surgeon in the limb reconstruction unit at Al-Awda Hospital, “your body ends up fighting a chronic infection like cancer. These patients look really sick. They are usually tired and malnourished. Once they are amputated, they are different people. They feel better, it's amazing how quickly they get better.”