An American nurse who worked in Gaza for nearly a month is speaking out about the horrific circumstances in which Palestinian civilians are living.
Emily Callahan, a nurse activity manager for Doctors Without Borders, had been in Gaza since August. She was evacuated back to the United States last week.
“I obviously have a sense of relief that I’m home and I’m with my family and feel safe for the first time in 26 days. And I’m having a really hard time finding any joy in any of it,” she told CNN on Monday.
“Because me being safe is the result of having to leave people behind.”
Callahan described having to relocate with her team to a refugee camp in the south, which was already packed with 35,000 internally displaced people. The camp, which now has 50,000 people living there, was so short on resources that people only had access to water for two hours out of every 12.
Hospitals were so full that they were having to discharge people immediately after treating them, Callahan said, resulting in people, particularly children, walking around the camp with unhealed burns or fresh amputations.
Callahan also described the sacrifices that her Palestinian teammates made to make sure she and other foreign doctors and nurses survived. This included finding them food and water when supplies ran out, and working to get them on the evacuation buses.
“We would have died within a week without them,” she said.
Some of Callahan’s Palestinian colleagues chose to stay in Gaza rather than evacuate. She said when they got the evacuation orders, Callahan texted to ask if they would move south.
“The only answer I got was, ‘This is our community. This is our family. These are our friends. If they’re going to kill us, we’re going to die saving as many people as we can,’” she said.
Asked if she would return to Gaza, Callahan replied, “In a heartbeat. My heart is in Gaza. It will stay in Gaza.”