TX Nurse Shares Firsthand Experience in Gaza and The Global Health Crisis | Opinion

10 Min Read Published June 5, 2024
TX Nurse Shares Firsthand Experience in Gaza and The Global Health Crisis | Opinion

This opinion article is authored by Dr. Wali Khan, DNAP, CRNA.

As healthcare providers and members of society, we share a collective responsibility to protect those who dedicate their lives to saving others. These individuals represent the best of humanity, often working under perilous conditions to alleviate suffering.

Read on to learn about a Texas-based nurse who recently returned from volunteering in Gaza, various global conflict zones experiencing healthcare crises, and worldwide healthcare organizations healing across dangerous borders.

Podcast Episode

>>Listen to "TX Nurse Who Volunteered in Gaza Shares Firsthand Experience and The Global Health Crisis (with Dr. Wali Khan and Nurse Abeerah)"  


In this episode of Nurse Converse, Dr. Wali Khan, DNAP, CRNA interviews a special guest, Emergency Room nurse Abeerah, who has just returned from a harrowing two-week medical aide mission in Gaza. The conversation revolves around her sharing her firsthand experiences volunteering in Palestine, as well as a deeper look into the overall worldwide healthcare crisis in conflict areas. 

Abeerah shares an account of the first moments she arrived in Rafah, Palestine, and heard a bomb go off a kilometer away. The local healthcare providers assured her that this was the safest she would be and she should not worry. Despite the horrific injuries, lack of resources, and constant influx of mass casualties, she emphasizes the resilience and dedication of local healthcare providers. For over 200 consecutive days, the HCPs have continued to show up every day, irrespective of loss of loved ones, property, or health, and worked to save as many lives as possible. 

This podcast episode serves as a powerful reminder that empathy and compassion should drive responses to these crises.

Youtube video

About Global Healthcare Crisis Zones

With war, instability, and suffering in so much of the world, it's hard to figure out what role we as citizens, especially nurses, can play. So many of us are left asking ourselves the same question: “What can I possibly do? I am just ONE person.” In the most simplistic and cliche terms, the answer lies within the question. It takes one person to allow the fire to start, as well as to extinguish it.  

To effectively contribute to global healing, it is essential to confront and acknowledge the harsh and uncomfortable realities of our world. This understanding may challenge us, as it often reveals our inadvertent complicity in existing problems. By embracing this discomfort, we can better comprehend our role and take meaningful action toward positive change. Below, we’ve highlighted key conflict zones that are also experiencing dire healthcare crises.


The global healthcare crisis in Gaza paints a grim picture: bombed hospitals, destroyed healthcare facilities, and scarce medical supplies. As of early 2024, reports from the United Nations indicate that over 400 healthcare workers, including doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, have been killed in Gaza by Israeli Defense forces (IDF) since the conflict escalated on October 7, 2023.

Howard Catton, the chief executive of The International Council of Nursing, described the normalization of the targeting of healthcare professionals (HCPs) worldwide, but specifically in Gaza, and the importance of humanitarian efforts in conflict zones. While speaking at the World Health Organization (WHO) executive board meeting in Geneva, Mr. Catton called on global leaders to denounce the deliberate targeting of HCPs in the “strongest possible terms.” 

He stated, “At best, it feels as though these obligations are being ignored and, at worst, that targeting health care staff and facilities has become part of military strategies.” 

When healthcare providers are targeted, it creates a climate of fear and deters others from volunteering or continuing to provide medical assistance in conflict zones. Medical neutrality is a cornerstone of healthcare, ensuring that medical professionals can provide care without fear of retribution or violence. 

An AI-generated image with writing that said “ALL EYES ON RAFAH” recently circulated on Instagram stories and was shared 45 million times in 24 hours. Human beings from all walks of life reshared the image in an act of protest and advocacy. The purpose of that particular post was to bring to light the catastrophic siege and deliberate attacks by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on displaced civilians seeking shelter in tents in declared safe zones.

The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has reached catastrophic levels due to the ongoing siege by the Israeli military. 

  • Bombings have now killed 34,145 Palestinians, including over 14,685 children. The situation has deteriorated significantly, with dire consequences for the civilian population. 
  • Additionally, according to The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), 80% of Gaza's population is displaced, with many seeking refuge in increasingly limited safe zones​ that continue to be bombed despite their non-conflict designation. 
  • Healthcare facilities, EMS convoys, UN aid facilities, Doctors without Borders encampments, and many humanitarian aid convoys and facilities have been bombed and are under constant attack.  
  • As it stands today, nearly every single hospital in Gaza has been bombed or placed under siege, rendering it incapacitated and leading to a severe shortage of medical supplies and personnel. 
  • Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reported attacks on their staff and facilities, exacerbating the healthcare crisis​. 
  • The conflict has resulted in the deaths of at least 165 UNRWA staff members since October 7, 2023, illustrating the dangerous conditions under which humanitarian workers operate. 
  • Additionally, over 150 UNRWA facilities, including schools and health centers, have been damaged or destroyed, further complicating relief efforts.​

Many global leaders are calling the devastation in Palestine a "man-made catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. The unimaginable suffering and loss of human life at every stage can not be put into words. In addition to the unlivable conditions that have been created, there is a full-blown famine that has swept the already decimated region. Children under 5 are among the first to die when wars, droughts, or other disasters curtail food. Hospital officials in northern Gaza reported the first deaths from hunger in early March and said most of the dead were children. In Gaza, the nutritional treatment for starving children is most urgently needed in the northern part of the Palestinian territory. Civilians have been cut off from most aid supplies, bombarded by Israeli airstrikes, and driven into hiding by fighting.

According to the United Nations, Gaza is now in "full-blown famine" after severe Israeli restrictions on food deliveries to the Palestinian territory. Cindy McCain, the American director of the U.N. World Food Program, became the most prominent international official so far to declare that trapped civilians in the most cut-off part of Gaza had gone over the brink of famine. "It's horror," McCain told NBC's "Meet the Press" in an interview. "There is famine, a full-blown famine in the north, and it's moving its way to the south of Gaza." She further added that a cease-fire and a greatly increased flow of aid through land and sea routes were essential to confronting the growing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, which is home to 2.3 million people. Saving the gravely malnourished children, in particular, requires both greatly increased deliveries of aid and complete cessation of war so that aid workers can set up treatment facilities around the territory and families can safely bring children in for the sustained treatment needed. 


Subsequently, similar posts with Sudan and The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were also shared to highlight the human rights violations, war crimes, and displacement occurring in those regions. 

The violence in Sudan has displaced millions of citizens.

  • More than 7 million people have been displaced. 
  • More than 170,000 people have now crossed into South Sudan, which was already facing some of the highest levels of displacement and humanitarian needs in the world.
  • In Sudan, a devastating war has thrown half the population into a humanitarian freefall. Thousands have been killed & 18 million people are facing the threat of famine.


The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is facing one of the world's most complex and severe humanitarian crises. 

  • Decades of conflict involving over 100 armed groups have led to widespread human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence. 
  • As of early 2024, 6.1 million people are internally displaced within the DRC, and an additional 1 million have sought refuge in neighboring countries. 
  • The conflict has particularly intensified in the eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, and Tanganyika, causing severe restrictions on humanitarian access and a surge in protection incidents. 
  • The situation has been exacerbated by a mix of ongoing violence, inflation, epidemics, and natural hazards, which have strained the already limited resources available to aid agencies. 
  • Food insecurity and limited access to essential services have heightened the vulnerability of the affected populations.
  • International response efforts are focused on providing protection, health services, education, and livelihood support, with a particular emphasis on preventing and responding to gender-based violence and ensuring the rights of the forcibly displaced. 


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) verified a total of 30,457 civilian casualties during Russia's invasion of Ukraine as of February 15, 2024.

In these dangerous and resource-deprived environments, healthcare providers are risking their lives to offer care. The lack of resources, infrastructure, and safety measures exacerbates the suffering of civilians, particularly women and children, who are the most vulnerable. 


Global Healthcare Organizations

Several organizations are providing crucial medical and humanitarian aid in Gaza and globally amid the ongoing crises. Some of the key humanitarian organizations include:

  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA): Provides comprehensive support, including education, healthcare, and emergency relief. Despite severe challenges, UNRWA continues to deliver aid to millions of people in Gaza​ (CharityWatch)​​
  • World Health Organization (WHO): WHO is coordinating the delivery of essential medical supplies and support to health facilities, despite facing significant access challenges due to the conflict​ (World Health Organization (WHO))​​ (UN News)​.
  • Palestinian Children's Relief Fund (PCRF): is involved in various humanitarian efforts in Gaza to alleviate the suffering of children. They arrange and fund medical treatment for children in need, including surgeries, specialized medical care, and access to medical facilities both within Gaza and abroad when necessary. PCRF offers mental health support and counseling services to children traumatized by conflict and other adversities.
  • Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières - MSF): MSF has been delivering medical supplies and supporting local hospitals, providing care in extremely difficult conditions​ (CharityWatch)​.
  • Medglobal: MedGlobal is actively involved in providing crucial medical and humanitarian aid in Gaza amid the ongoing crisis. Their efforts include operating a primary healthcare center and nine medical access points, which together provide care for over 5,000 patients daily. They are also running two malnutrition stabilization centers to address the severe nutritional deficiencies affecting children.
  • International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): The ICRC provides medical aid and supports emergency medical services across Gaza, focusing on emergency care and surgical needs​ (CharityWatch)​.
  • Save the Children: Focuses on the needs of children, providing food, water, and psychological support amidst the conflict​ (UN News)​.
  • Islamic Relief Worldwide: Provides medical aid, food parcels, and other emergency assistance to affected families​ (The IRC)​

Healthcare and Politics

Provision Eight of The American Nurses Association's (ANA) "Code of Ethics for Nurses" relates to human rights and the pivotal role nurses play in local and global advocacy. It states, “Nurses should work with other health professionals and the public to promote and protect human rights, health, and the environment.” 

There is an inherent dichotomy that exists which has led to criticism regarding the role of local and global advocacy. Some have dismissed it as an intertwining of politics with healthcare. Even going as far as to say the two should not be mixed. While it is an opinion, it could not be further from the truth. 

Healthcare is inherently political. We are only a year and a half removed from the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the biggest takeaways and lessons that we as a collective learned was the pivotal role that our voices and lobbying efforts have on government policies. The same policies that allow us to provide patient-centered care also protect ourselves and our families. 

Thus, in my opinion, everything we do as a profession is quite literally political. 

Global healthcare crises in conflict zones such as Gaza, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ukraine demand urgent attention, support, and advocacy from healthcare providers worldwide. Advocacy is at the heart of nursing; it is fundamental to the profession and has always been its core mission.

Ways Listeners Can Take Action

1. Seek peace, liberty, and justice for all. 

2. Advocacy begins and ends with you. Use whatever platform, resources, and privilege you have to be a voice for the voiceless. 

3. Whether in your respective work institutions or on the global stage such as in Palestine, it’s important to listen to the victims, believe their stories, see their suffering, and be the agent of change that brings about light into darkness. 

4. Use the power of your vote to bring about change at the local and national level. Voting is a privilege afforded to tax-paying citizens and how we can guarantee justice and equality for all, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized. This is also how we hold those in political leadership positions accountable for their promises to be elected to those offices. 

5. Donate to reputable organizations providing crucial and immediate humanitarian aid. 

6. Don't stop talking about the oppressed.

Dr. Wali Khan
Dr. Wali Khan
Host of Nurse Converse Podcast and Nurse.org Contributor

Dr. Wali Khan, DNAP, CRNA, is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiologist, motivational speaker and humanitarian. His writing entails a powerful narrative and perspective on the balance between faith and medicine. Passionate about personal development, faith, and community service, he uses his voice on social media (Instagram) to highlight the intersection between the three. 

As a Muslim Pakistani-American immigrant and first-generation college graduate, his journey entails a story of perseverance, balance, and compassion that students and practitioners can relate to. His professional and personal goal has always been to advocate for human rights, diversity, and equality. 

Read More From Dr. Wali
Go to the top of page