New Delhi: A US nurse who was rescued from Gaza Strip, the Ground Zero of war, has praised the Palestinian doctors and nurses who have chosen to stay behind despite knowing that they may die. Emily Callahan, a nurse activity manager with Doctors Without Borders, spoke about the dire conditions in Gaza and the heroic efforts of those who have stayed to help.
Callahan, who was evacuated from Gaza last Wednesday and returned to the US over the weekend, expressed relief to be back with her family but also shared her difficulty finding joy in her own safety, knowing that she had to leave people behind. She described the ongoing violence in Gaza, which began with Hamas’ terror attacks on Israel cities on October 7 and resulted in a brutal counterstrike that has killed over 10,000 people, according to UN estimates.
During her time in Gaza, Callahan and her team had to relocate multiple times due to security concerns. At one point, they found themselves at a camp with 35,000 internally displaced people, many of whom were children with severe burns and wounds. The overwhelmed hospitals were discharging patients immediately, leaving them with no supplies. Callahan also revealed that one camp with over 50,000 people only had four toilets that received water supply for four hours a day.
The conditions in the relief camps were appalling, with people walking around with fresh open burns and wounds in unsanitary conditions. Callahan shared that desperate parents would bring their children to them, begging for help, but they had no supplies to offer. The team also faced harassment from angry and grieving individuals, who accused them of being American or Israeli.
Despite the dangers, Callahan expressed her admiration for their Palestinian colleagues who chose to stay with them. These colleagues considered them family and insisted on staying to help their community and save as many lives as possible. At the Rafah border crossing into Egypt, it was the national staff who fought to get them across the border, sacrificing their own safety and water supply.
When asked if she would go back to Gaza, Callahan replied that she would in a heartbeat, as her heart remained in Gaza with the incredible Palestinian people she worked with. She emphasized that those who stayed behind are heroes, choosing to risk their lives to help others. Callahan also mentioned that there is a misconception that anyone who stayed behind is considered a threat, but she wanted to remind people that they are heroes who deserve recognition and support.
The situation in Gaza remains dire, and the need for humanitarian aid and assistance is urgent.