CEO leads Medical Aid for Palestinians’ response to 2023 Israel-Hamas conflict

The U.K.-based nonprofit Medical Aid for Palestinians was founded 40 years ago to improve health care for all Palestinian people. So when war between Israel and Hamas broke out in the fall of 2023, CEO Melanie Ward knew her group would need to respond. “This is what the organization was built for,” she says.

Ward and her team started working immediately following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, arranging for Medical Aid for Palestinians’ warehouses in Gaza to begin distributing more than $500,000 worth of medical supplies over the next two days in anticipation of an Israeli response. Since then, the group has provided food, hygiene kits, blankets, mattresses, and around $7 million in medical supplies to people in Gaza. It has also sent six teams of international health care workers into Gaza to provide on-site support to local doctors desperately trying to treat massive numbers of injured people in a shrinking number of functional hospitals. Thanks to its team of local staff, Medical Aid for Palestinians is now one of the only international aid groups that still has a physical presence in northern Gaza, which has sustained the worst of the damage.

Ward’s role in all of this, she says, is figuring out how to “build the car and drive it at the same time,” directing the group’s overarching strategy while also making sure world leaders know the extent of the crisis. Ward and her team haves briefed King Charles III, Members of the U.K. Parliament, and U.N. representatives about what’s transpiring on the ground. “Bearing witness to what is going on is part of the job as well,” she says.