He’s used to travelling the globe to offer his medical expertise, but Blackpool doctor Steve Mannion says he’s never seen anything like the scenes in Gaza.
Mr Mannion led a team of medical specialists to the war-torn city as part of mission to assess the level of care needed for injured people.
They were called to action by the Government, which has a register of clinicians who have agreed to volunteer in times of catastrophe, crisis and conflict.
Mr Mannion, an orthopaedic surgeon at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, was last called to an aid mission in Tacloban in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan struck last November.
He said: “I’ve been involved in conflict for most of my career – I was in Afghanistan in the 1990s. But I’ve seen nothing of this nature.
“The tragedy in Gaza is that civilians are being caught up in the cross-fire.
“The problem with Gaza is that it is a small place – about twice the size of the Fylde coast – but it’s very densely populated.
“There are nearly two million people living there and 50 per cent of them are children.
“The shelling and bombing had killed more than 400 children and children make up a considerable proportion of the injuries.”
Mr Mannion said as soon as his team arrived they struggled to access Gaza from East Jerusalem because of a military blockade set up by the Israeli forces.
“Many of the 1,000 people who were severely injured we were able to get out of Gaza,” he added.
“Some came to East Jerusalem, others went to hostels on the West Bank and others went to Turkey, Egypt and Jordan.
“Now that there’s a cease fire no-one’s being injured, so there is no great need for surgery teams inside Gaza. But what we did find is that there is a great need for physiotherapists and rehabilitation.”
Mr Mannion and his team has advised the Government to send a team of physiotherapists into Gaza.
He said: “It will be easier for another team of clinicians to enter Gaza because me and my team were able to obtain medical permission from the Israeli Defence Force to work in Gaza in the future.
“I didn’t get to do as much surgery as I would have liked, but that wasn’t the nature of my role there. I was there as part of an assessment mission on behalf of the UK government.”
As well as Gaza and Tacloban, Mr Mannion has been called to Libya to held an aid mission on government orders since the register was created in 2007.
Mr Mannion also spends around two weeks every month in his ‘second home’ Malawi performing orthopaedic surgery on children with twisted legs and club foot.
By his own admission, Steve Mannion has a few stories to tell. He’s seen the results of conflict and devastation first hand after spending time treating the injured in Afghanistan, Libya and now Gaza as well as those suffering the after effects of a super typhoon which ripped through the Philippines. And even though he spends half the year in Malawi treating children with foot and leg conditions, he still says his home is in Blackpool. Mr Mannion earned the title of Blackpool’s SuperDoc after a BBC series, called SuperDoctors, featured him and his dedication to working in far-flung and under-resourced corners of the world in 2008.