Watch: UK medics travel to Gaza to improve breast cancer care

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an annual worldwide campaign to raise understanding of the importance of breast cancer treatment, education and research. Across the occupied Palestinian territory, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is working to improve breast cancer care and supports multi-disciplinary teams of UK specialist oncologists, surgeons, nurses, and radiologists to make regular visits to Gaza and the West Bank.

Last month, a MAP-supported breast cancer mission travelled to Gaza. The team comprised of Dr Ashwini Sharma, Consultant Radiologist, and Dr Gerard O’Hare, Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist. Based at three hospitals, Al Shifa, Rantisi and the Gaza European, they delivered training to local health workers caring for women affected by the disease, teaching them new techniques to improve outcomes and quality of life for breast cancer patients.

Living in Gaza presents many barriers to breast cancer care. A woman treated by the breast cancer mission, Suhair Jaber, told MAP:

I hoped I would get the cancer removed as soon as I was diagnosed. If only things were available here, for example, if it were easy to get a medical transfer permit, or find the medicine, it would have been so much easier on me. But it is difficult to find your medicines, or travel for medical treatment. There are a lot of things we do not have here in Gaza due to the occupation.

One of the medics trained by the UK specialists, Ibrahim Zaqout, Head Nurse at the Tumour Clinic in Rantisi Hospital, outlined how shortages of cancer drugs undermine the treatment of breast cancer patients.

“A patient would start with a specific treatment, then this treatment is no longer available in Gaza, and after three to four months, the treatment becomes available again. This results in deepening the crisis, as the cancer cells become resistant to the treatment. This would require a change to another treatment protocol, and then the patient goes into another crisis similar to the one before.”

Writing on the week’s training Dr O’Hare said:

I would like to thank the fundraisers who have enabled this project to happen who recognise the fact that cancer is a serious public health issue in Palestine. It has a devastating effect on patients and their families. And there is hardly a family in Palestine that has not been affected by cancer. I hope that in the future the small changes that this project bring, make a significant improvement for some of the patients who are diagnosed with cancer.

(Source / 19.10.2018)

Study: Polluted water main cause of death in Gaza

Gaza is in urgent need for affordable water supplies to keep up with the needs.

Palestinian woman collecting water

More than a quarter of illnesses in Gaza are caused by water pollution, a new study has said, noting that this is the main cause of mortality in the coastal enclave that has endured an Israeli siege since 2007.

The study, which the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published a copy of, was carried out by RAND Corporation, an American NGO. It said that it reached these findings four years ago and that “since that time these numbers have continued to grow”.

How clean is Gaza's water? [Infographic/Visualizing Palestine]

Based on the report, Haaretz said that the collapse of water infrastructure has led to a sharp rise in germs and viruses such as rotavirus, cholera and salmonella.

The report said the situation is worsening due to repeated Israeli operations in Gaza which started in 2008.

READ: Lifting the siege means bringing Hezbollah to Gaza, says Lieberman

“Today, 97 per cent of drinking water in the Strip is not drinkable by any recognised international standard,” Haaretz reported.

“Some 90 per cent of residents drink water from private purifiers, because the larger installations have been damaged by fighting or have fallen into disuse since they couldn’t be maintained,” the Israeli paper continued.

Not enough water supplies

The study concluded that the current situation is that “Gaza is incapable of supplying enough water for its 2 million inhabitants”.

“Gaza schools have one toilet per 75 pupils and one sink for washing hands per 80. Most of this water is either recycled or from a reservoir. As a result, the very presence of children in these schools puts them at risk of contracting gastrointestinal diseases.”

It also said: “Schools, public buildings and hospitals are only cleaned when necessary in order to conserve water. Hospital staff only wash their hands when it’s essential and not on a regular basis when going from one patient to another, in order to conserve the water for life-saving treatment.”

READ: Palestinian doctor from Gaza kidnapped in West Bank

Haaretz also reported that the “researchers estimate that within two years, even the isolated sources of water used today will cease to operate without proper maintenance”.

The study said that the average cost of water use per capita in the West is 0.7 per cent of monthly wages, but in Gaza a third of monthly wages goes toward the purchase of water, pointing out that the high rate of unemployment makes many people unable to buy clean water.

“The few, wealthier people in Gaza can purchase bottled mineral water but most Gaza residents must suffice with the one day a week that the authorities turn on the taps for a few hours.”

(Source / 17.10.2018)

Improving care for Palestinian burns patients

Burns injuries are a prevalent health risk for Palestinians in the West Bank. Whether caused by industrial accidents, house fires or even arson attacks by settlers, they can cause extreme pain and have serious lifelong effects.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has long recognised these risks and helped, in partnership with the International Medical Education Trust 2000, to establish the first dedicated Burns Units in Palestine in 2009 at Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, in the north of the West Bank.  For almost a decade, this centre has been providing high-quality care to burns patients – including emergency treatment and surgery, inpatient care, pain management and physiotherapy.

But for burns patients from elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, living amid a network of checkpoints and roadblocks, it could often take many hours to reach the Burns Unit in the north. Every delay increases the chance of infection, sepsis and other fatal complications, putting the lives and wellbeing of many burns patients at risk.

That is why, working in partnership with the Welfare Association and the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH), MAP has also helped to establish a new Burns Unit in Alia Hospital in the city of Hebron, which opened last summer. This new unit makes it much easier for patients in the southern West Bank to access timely, high-quality care with fewer health-endangering delays. The Unit serves a population of about 850,000 Palestinians.

Burns care training for Palestinian surgeons and nurses

The recovery from severe burns injuries can take a long time, and the outcomes for patients depend on both their initial treatment and quality of their long-term care. The roles played by surgeons and nurses in this process is vital, helping to minimise the pain, scarring and long term impact of the injury.

Specialist burns care training, including visits by international, muliti-disciplinary teams, is a key part of MAP’s programme to improve the quality of care received by burns patients.

This summer, working in partnership with Interburns, a global network of burns care professionals, MAP supported a three-day training at Rafidia Hospital for ten surgeons and nurses working at the two West Bank Burns Units.

The training included a wound management workshop, developing the health workers ability to categorise burns injuries according to the depth of tissue damage. They also discussed burn wound pathophysiology (the management required by different types of burns injuries), wound healing processes and how to prevent and control infections. The workshop included a practical element, with the medics practicing to apply various dressings.

The health workers were also trained on scar management, including how to assess scars and what rehabilitation measures are required.

Throughout the training, the medics discussed how they were going to implement and apply the new skills and techniques to improve burns care services at their hospitals.

The participants were enthusiastic about the course, reflecting that programme provided an important foundation in burns care and they looked forward to building this knowledge at further, advanced trainings. “The training was very informative especially that new topics were addressed during the training,” said Hiba Sharawi, a nurse from Alia Hospital.

MAP and Interburns would like to thank the MoH, in particular Dr. Anas Abu Safa and Dr. Walid Zalloum, for their help in facilitating the training. MAP would also like to thank the Interburns team: Tom Potokar, Renate Pfann, and Ioannis Goutos – for their time and energy, helping to develop burn care in Palestine.

(Source / 13.10.2018)

Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists condemns international psychology association’s 2019 conference in Israel

USA Palestine Mental Health Network’s press release

Palestine mental health network event

The Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists has issued a formal statement earlier this week condemning the decision of the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP) to hold its 2019 annual conference in Israel. In December 2017, an international group of mental health clinicians requested that the IARPP reconsider that plan, but IARPP refused. In January 2018, three organizations, the USA-Palestine Mental Health Network, the UK-Palestine Mental Health Network, and Jewish Voice for Peace then launched a petition signed by 1400 mental health professionals worldwide protesting the IARPP plan to meet in Israel. There were subsequently two other petitions in protest of the IARPP decision to meet in Israel: one signed by a group of members of the Israeli organization Psychoactive and another signed by a group of Palestinian mental health clinicians who are citizens of Israel.

Now, the Palestinian Union of Social Workers and Psychologists has launched its own powerful statement. The petition states:

PUSWP – Palestine – نیة نقابة الأخصائیین الإجتماعیین والنفسیین الفلسطی 

At the very moment when our people are struggling for justice, freedom, and dignity in the face of the Israeli occupation, with all of the damage inflicted by its arbitrary policies and immoral practices…

At the very moment when social workers and psychologists in Palestine stand together against this oppression, supporting the people of Palestine in their struggle for an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital…

And at the very moment when the Israeli government enacts an apartheid “Nation-State Basic Law,” nullifying the fundamental right of equality to its Palestinian citizens, undermining their already-fragile status, and further debasing their humanity, identity, language, and claim to their homes in both real and symbolic terms…

At this very moment, The International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (IARPP) decides to hold its 2019 annual conference in Tel Aviv, despite international protests and criticism.

We believe that holding this conference and participating in it only lends legitimacy to the occupation and its innumerable violations of human rights. Participating in this conference gives implicit support to Israeli policies that violate the principles of social work and psychological practice—principles based on freedom, justice, dignity, and human rights. Moreover, participation in this conference by Palestinian clinicians will be used to undermine the efforts of those who protest the violations of human rights by Israel and to discredit the cultural boycott of Israel.

Participation in this conference will be exploited to weaken the friendship between Palestine and its international supporters who seek to isolate Israel on account of its human rights violations. The Israeli branch of IARPP is well aware that holding conferences, presentations, concerts, academic visits, and cultural scientific exchanges in Israel imply acceptance of the status quo. The cultural boycott of Israel clearly articulates that organizing such events in Israel lends Israel political support and promotes its policies on the world stage.

It is painfully ironic to see that Israel has been chosen as the venue for an international conference focusing on the in-depth study of human relationships as an aspect of mental health. Our concern is to combat the occupation in all of its manifestations—first as human beings, and in addition as mental health practitioners committed to human values. We are profoundly aware of the importance of these values to the well being of children, families, and communities. Recognizing the impact of violence on individual health and collective well-being, we feel an additional responsibility to communicate our voices and to highlight the moral issue of our responsibility, as mental health workers, to study the context in which we treat our patients. We understand very well the impact on mental health of oppression, political struggle, economic constraints, and war. We see the therapist as having a duty to address these aspects of the environment in which the patient lives.

We, therefore, appeal to our friends all over the world—whether they be individuals, federations, unions, or institutions –not to participate in the IARPP meeting and instead to condemn it.

We appeal as well to our Palestinian colleagues working in mental health and related fields not to participate in this meeting in any way.

(Source / 13.10.2018)

Thousands of Chronically Ill Gazans Deprived of Medicine

11 OCT
7:06 AM

Thousands of patients with chronic diseases, in the Gaza Strip, suffer from a shortage of medicines which are supposed to be distributed to them every month in primary health centers throughout the Gaza Strip.

According to a report by the Palestinian Center for Health Information in the Ministry, the total number of diabetics and sufferers of hypertension, in Gaza, numbers 350 thousand patients. These people attend primary care clinics, at the rate of a monthly visit to each of them, to follow up, upon which they are supposed to receive treatment if available.

The report showed an increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases in the Gaza Strip, from 35% to 46% between 2016 to 2017, in addition to an increase in the rate of diabetes, from 31% to 32% between the years (2016 – 2017).

The supply of medicinal drugs that are supposed to be available, in the ministry clinics, amounts to 145 categories. Currently, there are only 45 categories. The deficit is 70%, while 16 categories are expected to be completed within the next three months.

The patients cannot find alternative treatment, most of the time, according to Al Ray, and the threat of facing more serious complications is on the rise.

(Source / 11.10.2018)

World Health Report: Right to Health 2017

06 OCT
9:26 PM
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its report, Right to Health: Crossing barriers to access health in the occupied Palestinian territory 2017.
The report examines obstacles to achieving the highest attainable standard of health for Palestinians living under occupation, including barriers to health access and attacks on health care.

According to the PNN, Dr. Gerald Rockenschaub, Head of WHO in the occupied Palestinian territory, stated: “Enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right of every human being. Today’s report outlines major obstacles to achieving that right for Palestinians living under chronic occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In 2017, we have seen the lowest approval rate on record for Gaza patients needing access to hospitals in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Israel. This year we have also witnessed a large number of attacks on health staff, ambulances and facilities, with the sad loss of three health colleagues killed while working to treat people injured during protests in the context of Gaza’s “Great March of Return”. We face major challenges in the health sector across the occupied Palestinian territory, with reductions in funding and a shrinking humanitarian space. This event is an opportunity for us to come together, to reflect on these challenges and to consider strategic actions in the coming months to bring about meaningful improvements for the health of Palestinians.’

The WHO report outlines key indicators for monitoring the right to health in the occupied Palestinian territory, and gives detailed analysis of the barriers to access for some of the most vulnerable Palestinian patients who require permits to access specialized health care. At the same event, WHO launched a book of photo stories on the right to health, which give accounts of individual patients and health workers and the difficulties they face. One story is that of Mohammad, a 7-year-old boy from Gaza with cancer in his right hip, and his grandmother Amal. Amal tells of the financial burden of traveling to East Jerusalem for care:

“I don’t dare to buy anything, but sometimes Mohammad asks to go to the cafeteria to buy a treat. I can only buy him the cheapest things… Much of the money goes on transport… Gaza has no work, no electricity, no water, nothing.”

Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator and UN Resident Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, stated: “Israel’s restrictions on the free movement of Palestinians and its permit regime has severe consequences for access to health care of an extremely vulnerable group of patients in need of specialist treatments and investigation not available in Gaza or in the West Bank outside of East Jerusalem. A third of these patients are referred for cancer care. A third of these patients are children and young people aged 19 years or under. Three-fifths of these patients faced at least one denial or delay of a permit application in 2017. Collectively we have a responsibility to insist that Palestinians enjoy full and equal rights and have unhindered access to services needed to promote health and well being.”

(Source / 07.10.2018)

Kinderen met kanker: niet welkom

Karma logo

Je zou het maar te horen krijgen van je arts: “Je hebt kanker”; meestal stort je wereld dan compleet in en nadat je weer trachtte om het leven op te pakken, begint de ellende met chemotherapie, radiotherapie en soms/vaak ook nog een operatie. Ik kan het weten, want ik ben er geweest en ben ondertussen weer 2 jaar na mijn operatie. Maar ik ben niet belangrijk, de kindjes van Libanon zijn van belang.

In Nederland kan je de behandeling krijgen die je nodig hebt, maar dat is niet overal. Laatst was er een documentaire over kinderen met kanker in Libanon via BNN/VARA. Een zeer aangrijpende documentaire van Ton van der Ham.  In deze documentaire kwamen kinderen met kanker aan het woord en ook Dr Issa Layal, waarbij duidelijk de schrijnende gezondheidszorg voor deze patiëntjes in beeld werd gebracht. Na de opname heb ik contact gezocht met de tv-organisatie, die me door kon verwijzen naar Dr Issa Layal, waarna ik contact heb opgenomen.  Middels Whatsapp en Facebook is er contact geweest en is uitleg ontvangen van wat er nodig is.

In de jaren 80 heb ik voor een project van het KWF gewerkt in het Academisch Ziekenhuis Utrecht in het kader van beenmergtransplantaties bij kankerpatiënten en ook hier zaten jonge patiëntjes tussen. Sommigen hebben de transplantaties doorstaan en ik heb ook kindjes het ziekenhuis zien verlaten.  Ik moest toen al een paar keer slikken toen ik deze jonge kinderen zag, maar bij de documentaire van de afgelopen week zat ik met tranen in mijn ogen.

Daarom is er ook contact gezocht met Dr Issa Layal om hulp aan te bieden. Er kwam een melding – was ook reeds te zien in de documentaire – dat er geld nodig is, financiële support – en veel geld, daar de behandelingen van deze kindjes niet echt goedkoop zijn. Ondertussen zijn de behandelingen wel gestart maar geld blijft nodig. En bij dit punt doe ik een beroep op u: help mee om deze kinderen te helpen met de behandeling  van hun kanker. Het moet toch mogelijk zijn om ook voor deze kinderen in Libanon, die de oorlog in Syrië zijn ontvlucht, het leven aangenamer te maken; kinderen als de 11-jarige Azzedine (keel- en longkanker), Bouchra van 14 (bloedziekte) en de 6-jarige Abdelhamid (wachtend op een beenmergtransplantatie).

Er zijn sponsors nodig, mensen die maandelijks, of per kwartaal of eenmalig een bedrag over willen maken. Laat het weten, zodat Dr Issa Layal ingeseind kan worden, dat er geld ingezameld wordt. Reageer op dit artikel.

Tevens roep ik de minister van Gezondheidszorg, het kabinet maar vooral de premier op om meer ruimte vrij te maken voor ernstig zieke kinderen en niet alleen de 30 plaatsen voor zieke vluchtelingen, jong of oud, die er nu zijn. Die 30 plaatsen zijn echter wel inclusief familie, dus het is een grote loterij om een plaatsje te kunnen krijgen in Nederland. Bewindslieden, stel dat het uw kind zou zijn dat zo ernstig ziek zou zijn, dan wilt u er toch ook van alles aandoen om de mogelijkheid te onderzoeken tot genezing en te zorgen dat uw kind zal genezen. Beschouw deze kindjes als uw kind, als onze kinderen; ze hebben geen schuld aan de vreselijke oorlog in Syrië. Ze hebben recht op het leven en wij de menselijke plicht om ze te helpen.   

Link Zembla:

Official: More than 75% of cancer medicines unavailable in Gaza Strip

A hospital in Gaza [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

A hospital in Gaza

Some 70 per cent of medicines for chronic diseases and 75 per cent of those for cancer treatment and blood diseases are not available in the besieged Gaza Strip, the spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said.

Speaking to the Quds News Agency, Ashraf Al-Qudra said the health care situation in the Gaza Strip is deteriorating rapidly, adding that Palestinian patients suffer the consequences.

“Milk for sick children is also unavailable,” Al-Qudra said, calling on international and human rights organisations to “rescue Palestinian patients, send medicines and allow the patients to travel for treatment”.

READ: 8,260 patients at risk after cancer treatment runs out in Gaza

He also demanded the health ministry in the West Bank to provide the Gaza Strip with medicines on a regular basis and called for the opening of the border crossings.

According to Al-Qudra, the health care system in Gaza Strip also suffers from a shortage of fuel needed to operate generators in 13 public hospitals and 54 primary care centres which require 450,000 litres of diesel per month.

As many as 56 patients died in 2017 due to lack of medicines, Al-Qudra added.

2 out of 5 patients in #Gaza who apply for medical care outside the strip are rejected by #israel



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(Source / 05.10.2018)

Report: Breast cancer ‘most widely spread’ type of cancer in Palestine

Breast cancer patients in Gaza

The Ministry of Health said yesterday that breast cancer remains the most common and widely spread type of cancer in Palestine.

Marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the ministry said as many as 503 new cases of breast cancer were recorded in the occupied West Bank in 2017 and 327 new cases were recorded in the besieged Gaza Strip in 2016.

Some 3,854 women have undergone early examination for breast cancer in the ministry’s clinics so far this year, of whom 210 were referred for further examination.

OPINION: The mothers of Palestine are being treated shamefully, and not just by Israel

In 2017, the ministry provided breast cancer screening services to 9,721 women of whom 28.5 per cent – 2,772 women – were found to need further examination and suspected to have cancerous cells. During the same year, as many as 2,899 women underwent mammography services.

The ministry provides early screening services for breast cancer in all primary health care centres free of charge and without the need for health insurance.

(Source / 05.10.2018)

Gaza patients risk losing their lives due to acute medicine crisis

Lack on medicines

The Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry has warned that hospitals in the besieged enclave have run out of first-aid medicines, leaving thousands of patients without treatment.

The Ministry’s spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said in a press statement on Thursday that patients and children at Gaza hospitals are at risk of losing their lives after 70% of first-aid drugs along with medicines for chronic diseases and therapeutic milk have become at zero stock.

A few days earlier, the ministry has expressed deep concerns over serious setbacks to rock the health of thousands of chronically ill patients as a result of a sharp dearth in life-saving drugs.

Blockaded by Israel — by air, land and sea — since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been grappling with a tough blockade, leaving thousands of sick civilians and humanitarian cases stranded in the world’s largest “open air prison.”

(Source / 04.10.2018)