Denied entry to Gaza for breast cancer mission

A full training and treatment project was wrecked after Israel had denied permission for Philippa Whitford

Israeli occupation has denied permission for British lawmaker, Philippa Whitford, who is a doctor, from entering Gaza to offer help for patients of breast cancer.

Over the past two and half years*, I have been working with Medical Aid for Palestine (MAP) to improve the provision of services and treatment for breast cancer patients in Palestine.

Last year, I travelled out with the specific aim of setting up a project to enable experienced professionals in breast cancer care to provide teaching and training to local Palestinian clinicians working with breast cancer patients.

Since my last visit, I have managed to recruit a team of specialists from all over Scotland to join the project, which will help improve breast cancer care – prevention, diagnosis and treatment – for women in Gaza and the West Bank.

Tragically, many Palestinian women are denied permits to travel from Gaza to Jerusalem to access radiotherapy so it is important to be able to access as much treatment as possible near their home.

The plan this year was to travel out with the whole team in September but, frustratingly, I was denied a visa. Moreover, two others did not receive their visas in time.

However, I travelled, but I had to completely change my schedule and work the entire time from a base in Jerusalem.

Nonetheless, I am still able to see significant improvements since my visit last year, which is fantastic given that local clinicians are working under very difficult circumstances, particularly in Gaza. Hopefully, things will continue to progress.

In October, I raised the issue of my visa being denied in Parliament with the Foreign Office Minister. To see my question click here

Following this, Commonspace asked to interview me about how this affected my trip, my past work in Gaza, my thoughts on the current situation and what needs to be done to resolve it, and what our project hopes to achieve.

*This letter was written one year ago.

(Source / 04.12.2019)

Qatari doctors in Gaza to carry out cochlear implant ops for children

Qatari doctors perform ochlear implant operations on Palestinian children on 26 November 2019

Qatari doctors perform ochlear implant operations on Palestinian children in Gaza on 26 November 2019

A medical delegation from Qatar arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday to carry out cochlear implant operations on 14 Palestinian children with hearing impairments. According to the Director of Hamad Hospital for Artificial Limbs in Gaza, Dr Raafat Lubbad, the Qatari team includes specialists from Hamad Medical Institution in Qatar.

In addition to carrying out the operations, Lubbad explained, the visiting doctors will train their Palestinian counterparts in the cochlear implant procedure. He pointed out that Palestinian doctors had received training during previous visits by specialists from Qatar. Palestinian Consultant Mohammed Murad, for example, has started to carry out such operations and training others qualitatively.

Dr Lubbad said that all of the children having cochlear implants are under six years old, and the devices themselves were brought from outside Palestine.

Since the start of these procedures two years ago, 166 out of 2,000 with hearing impairments have had implants, all of which have been successful.

The cochlear implant programme is sponsored by the Palestinian Ministry of Health and paid for by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development in cooperation with other Qatari NGOs.

READ: Qatar to stop providing funds, aid to Gaza in 2020

Qatari doctors perform ochlear implant operations on Palestinian children on 26 November 2019
Qatari doctors perform ochlear implant operations on Palestinian children on 26 November 2019
Qatari doctors sit with Palestinian families whose children till undergo ochlear implant operations on 26 November 2019
Qatari doctors perform ochlear implant operations on Palestinian children on 26 November 2019

 (Source / 26.11.2019) 

Palestinian prisoner transferred to Israel’s clinic despite risk of death

Palestinian political prisoner Sami Abu Diak [Twitter]

Palestinian political prisoner Sami Abu Diak, 19 November 2019 

Palestinian political prisoner Sami Abu Diak who has been diagnosed with cancer has been sent back to Israel’s Al-Ramla prison clinic despite reports that it lacks the specialist care he requires.

The transfer from Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre to the clinic in Ramla prison came after the detainee was rushed to the hospital two days ago following a serious deterioration in his health.

According to the Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs Commission in the Gaza Strip, Abu Daik’s condition remains unstable. The organsiation warned that he could “die at any moment” due to cancer which has spread all over his body.

He is also suffering from kidney and lung failure.

The commission – affiliated to the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces – made demands for the immediate and unconditional release of Abu Diak, so that he can receive treatment in the West Bank, close to his family.

READ: After 40 years in Israel jail, Palestinian prisoner placed in solitary

The commission’s statement also explained that Abu Diak lost nearly 40 kilogrammes in weight and his blood sugar level has dropped.

Thirty-three-year-old Abu Diak, from Jenin in the occupied West Bank, was arrested on 17 July 2002 and is serving a life sentence for resisting the Israeli occupation.

There are currently more than 500 Palestinians serving one or more life terms in Israel out of over 5,500 detainees in Israeli jails, reported official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

What are #Israel‘s preferred methods of torture?

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(Source / 19.11.2019) 

Gaza specialist doctors emigrate due to Israel siege

Image of Palestinian doctors performing surgery in Gaza [Abed Rahim Khatib/Apaimages]

Palestinian doctors performing surgery in Gaza 

More than 120 highly qualified Palestinian doctors emigrated from the Gaza Strip in 2018 and 2019, pushing the Ministry of Health to close medical departments in hospitals.

According to a report published by Amad.ps on Saturday, the Palestinian doctors who left their posts in Gaza highlighted the pressure of working under the 12-year Israeli siege imposed on Gaza.

On Facebook, Surgeon Adnan Radi wrote: “The first skilled and most qualified specialist of heart surgery Mohammad Nassar left Gaza, pushing us to close the Department of Cardiac Surgery.” He described this as a “catastrophe.”

Ahmed Shatat, an official at the doctors’ affairs division in Gaza hospitals, said doctors travel aboard to look for “better opportunities” because they “do not have regular salaries” in Gaza as a result of Israel’s actions.

“Qualified doctors do not feel they have a bright future that matches their qualifications in the besieged Gaza Strip where they have low and irregular salaries,” Shatat said.

He stated that the problem is not with the emigration of the new graduates, but of the “skilled doctors whose emigration poses a serious danger to the health care system.”

READ: Israel to decrease electricity supplies to Palestinians

Journalist Sama Hassan wrote on her Facebook: “I do not expect doctors who leave Gaza to find a better life, but they would find a regular salary and have work security.”

She hailed the efforts of Gaza doctors but reiterated that they are looking for some kind of safety and stability.

“They have served patients and the wounded in the most difficult times,” she said, “but they have spent the best years of their life studying and getting the best skills and experience so they want to get some gains in order to have a secure and stable life for themselves and their families.”

Retired specialist of general health Yousef Musa said: “The emigration of skilled doctors is a dangerous indicator because the Ministry of Health is forced to look for alternatives.”

He noted that the sole alternative is treatment abroad and this is very expensive and exhausts a large per cent of its budget.

(Source / 11.11.2019) 

Seriously Wounded Palestinian Woman Hooked To Life Support Machines

The Palestinian Detainees Committee has reported that the Palestinian woman, who was shot and seriously injured by Israeli army fire, on Wednesday morning, is currently in a very critical condition, and is hooked to life support machines at an Israeli hospital.

Karim Ajwa, a lawyer of the Committee, said that the wounded woman, Soheir Islamiyah, 38, was moved by the soldiers to Shaare Zedek Medical Center, in occupied Jerusalem.

Ajwa stated that he managed to see the seriously wounded woman at the Israeli hospital, and added that she is in a critical condition, currently dependent on life support machines at the Intensive Care Unit.

He also said that the Ofar Israeli military court, near Ramallah in central West Bank, will be holding a hearing on the case of the wounded woman, this coming Sunday.

It is worth mentioning that Soheir was shot and seriously injured, on Wednesday morning, near the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, after the army claimed he attempted to stab them.

After shooting her, the soldiers prevented Palestinian medics from approaching her to provide her with the urgently needed medical care, and later called for an Israeli ambulance and transferred her to Shaare Zedek.

No soldiers were injured in the alleged stabbing attempt.

(Source / 31.10.2019) 

Augusta Victoria Hospital Out of Service, PA Refuses to Pay Debts

Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), in occupied Jerusalem, Sunday evening, launched a distress call entitled “The Future of AVH Hospital is in Danger,” which has reached a dead end, according to administration.

The hospital said, in a statement, that the Palestinian government did not transfer any funds to the hospital and refuses to pay its debts, which have now reached NIS 200 million. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtayah said, Sunday afternoon, that the Ministry of Finance transferred NIS 20 million.

The director general of the hospital, Walid Namour, said that there were no medicines, and that the hospital is incapable of providing treatment services, calling for immediate funds to buy medicine.

Namour added that the NIS 20 million in question had not reached the hospital, and, even if it did, only constitutes only 10% of the debt.

Dozens of patients, especially cancer patients, some of them from Gaza, complained of the hospital’s refusal to treat them because of the debt crisis, and the lack of cancer drugs in the hospital.

He noted, according to Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency, that the pharmaceutical companies specializing in cancer treatment, and a number of other serious diseases, have stopped dealing with the hospital.

(Source / 28.10.2019) 

MEDICALLY NEGLECTED PRISONER ABU DIYAK IN CRITICAL CONDITION AND COULD DIE ANY TIME

Occupied Palestine (QNN)- The Committee of Palestinian Prisoners and former Prisoners on Sunday warned that the medical condition of the prisoner Sami Abu Diyak (38 years old is deteriorating due to the Israeli medical negligence policy.

The committee said in a statement that Abu Diyak cannot stand up and that he was sent to Assaf Harofeh hospital three times last week, where he was given three blood units, as he suffers from severe blood shortage.

The statement said that Abu Diyak could die any moment, as he also suffers from advanced-stage cancer. He suffers from severe pain, which cannot be relieved using pain killers any more.

Sami Abu Diyak, from Jenin, has been suffering from cancer for over three years. He fell ill due to a deliberate medical mistake, when he had a rectal surgery in Soroka Israeli hospital back in September 2015. Israeli doctors removed 80 cm of his intestines, which caused severe inflammation in addition to intoxication and kidney and lung failure. After that he had three further surgeries and remained under anesthesia for one month.

Abu Diyak was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to three life sentences and 30 years. He is one of 13 sick prisoners, who are held in the clinic of Ramleh jail. They only get pain killers as they are subjected to deliberate medical negligence, which slowly kills them.

(Source / 28.10.2019) 

Medical Crisis in Gaza: Bone Infections Rise with Shortage of Critical Medicine

The release of two new reports point to the severity of the Israeli-imposed crisis on the Gaza Strip, with thousands of Palestinian patients — many of whom have been injured by Israeli gunfire, shells and missiles — unable to access much-needed medicines and treatment due to the ongoing Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip.

The first report, by Doctors without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières), reports a rapid and severe increase of bone infections among injured Palestinians.

The group reports:

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is dealing with immense challenges while treating many people who have developed bone infections after having been shot by the Israeli army during protests in Gaza, Palestine over the last year. These infections are adding to the already complicated path to recovery that these injured people must tread. Their serious and complex wounds require months – if not years – of dressing, surgery and physiotherapy. Infections prevent recovery, and to make matters worse, many of them are resistant to antibiotics.

Gunshot wounds prone to infection

“When you have an open fracture, you need lots of things to get better: different types of surgery, physiotherapy, and avoiding the wound becoming infected, which is a high risk with these types of injuries,” explains Aulio Castillo, MSF’s Medical Team Leader in Gaza. “Unfortunately, for many of our patients who have been shot, the severity and complexity of their wounds – combined with the severe shortage of treatments for them in Gaza – means they have now developed chronic infections.”

“What’s more, we’re finding in preliminary testing that many of these people are infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria,” says Castillo.

Gunshot wounds by their very nature are prone to infection. With a dirty foreign body breaking the skin, it is vital that the wound be cleaned to reduce the risk of infection. With injuries such as those in Gaza, where the wounds are huge, bones are splintered, and treatment is difficult, many wounds stay open long after the injury, meaning the risk of infection is drastically higher.

Antibiotic resistant wounds make treatment much harder

Complicating this is what appear to be very high rates of antibiotic resistant infections there. These infections have developed an ability to withstand many common antibiotics used to treat them. This often happens because antibiotics have been overused, whether in the community or in the environment, which is a growing problem worldwide.

Antibiotic resistance makes the already difficult task of treating people like Ayman much harder. To get better he needs antibiotics, but with the usual option useless against the resistant infection, he has to take a stronger type that carries a higher risk of side effects. These “heavy-duty” antibiotics are also much more expensive.

In the second report, focused on shortages of essential medicines, Yousef al-Jamal, writing for the Electronic Intifada, states:

Israel’s siege – imposed since 2007 – has affected Gaza’s healthcare system enormously. A new report by the World Health Organization states that of the 516 items on Gaza’s essential medicines list, nearly half had less than a month’s stock remaining in 2018. The depletion of stocks had worsened by 15 percent since the previous year, the report adds.

Data from 2019 paint a similarly disturbing picture. During August, stocks of 225 essential medicines held in the central store of Gaza’s health ministry had run out by at least 90 percent.

Rana Hussein, a nurse at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, says that more than 60 cancer drugs are unavailable in Gaza. Treatments for diabetes and some kidney complaints are hard to find, too.

“There are 250 patients with thalassemia [a blood disorder] who lack medication,” Hussein said.

Improvements?

Israel’s frequent attacks on Palestinians taking part in protests has also placed considerable burdens on Gaza’s hospitals.

More than 1,000 people who have been injured are awaiting limb reconstruction treatment in Gaza, Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations’ Middle East envoy, stated last month. Unless such treatment is provided, many limbs could be lost because of infection.

Mladenov has claimed that “some improvements were felt” in Gaza’s economy over the past few months. Unemployment has dropped from 47 percent to 46.7 percent, he said.

The improvements have not been felt by many ordinary people. And human rights monitors have drawn attention to how a new method for calculating unemployment data has been introduced in Palestine.

Gisha, a group campaigning against movement restrictions, has estimated that the real level of unemployment in Gaza has risen since last year.

Mahmoud is a 30-year-old unemployed man. Two of his children – Wissam, 8, and Lina, 7 – have epilepsy.

Wissam can have as many as five seizures per day. He has broken teeth and injured his hands while falling down.

“Impossible to afford”

A dose of levetiracetam – the main drug used to treat epilepsy – costs $150 each for Lina and Wissam per month – when it can be found. “This treatment is often not available in Gaza’s hospitals and pharmacies,” said Mahmoud, who does not have the money to buy the medicines, in any event.

The children’s mother Ghada is trying against the odds to remain optimistic. “After black clouds comes sunshine,” she said.

“I wish it was me [who had epilepsy], not you,” she added, looking at her children.

Imam Abdulrahman, now aged 23, was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2016. Since then he has had an aortic valve replacement operation.

It is vital that he takes regular medication to reduce the risk of a heart attack or a stroke. Like many others in Gaza, he and his family do not have the means to pay his medical bills.

Lacking a fixed job, Abdulrahman does occasional work in construction or as a cleaner.

He mainly relies on welfare payments paid to his father by the Palestinian Authority, headquartered in the occupied West Bank. The payments come to $400 and are only issued every three months.

“This is not enough money,” Abdulrahman said. “It is impossible for me to afford medicine to help me overcome my illness.”

(Source / 19.10.2019) 

Kuwait launches services for disabled Palestinians in Gaza

Palestinians, in particular the elderly, sick and disabled, come together to call for international efforts to save Gaza from the humanitarian crisis

Palestinians yesterday inaugurated Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children in Gaza’s new improved building which was funded by Kuwait.

The Gulf state pumped $200 million to help reconstruct numerous projects in the besieged enclave including the Atfaluna Society project which supports 450 people with special needs.

The Kuwait Fund for the Reconstruction Program of the Southern Provinces in the State of Palestine has allocated $3 million to support the education sector through higher education institutions and NGOs. Funding has been provided to 13 institutions and associations which deal with higher education and people with special needs.

READ: Kuwait rebuilds industrial facilities in Gaza

(Source / 14.10.2019) 

WHO: ‘Unprecedented’ attacks against healthcare by Israel forces in 2018

Palestinians, who were wounded by Israeli soldiers during a protest, organized to mark 70th anniversary of Nakba, also known as Day of the Catastrophe in 1948, and against United States' plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, receive treatments at European Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on 17 May, 2018 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency]

Palestinians, who were wounded by Israeli soldiers during a protest, organized to mark 70th anniversary of Nakba, also known as Day of the Catastrophe in 1948, and against United States’ plans to relocate the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, receive treatments at European Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on 17 May, 2018

A new World Health Organisation (WHO) report said 2018 saw an “unprecedented” number of attacks on healthcare by Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

The report, “Right to Health in the occupied Palestinian territory: 2018”, launched this week in Ramallah at an event attended by senior diplomats, sets out to examine “obstacles to achieving the highest attainable standard of health for Palestinians living under occupation”.

According to Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, the head of WHO’s office in the oPt, “Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continue to face major barriers to the realization of the right to health.”

“Sustainability of quality healthcare services is challenged by chronic occupation and fragmentation; restrictions on movement have a profound impact on access to healthcare, including for some of the most vulnerable Palestinian patients.”

The WHO noted that “Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are exposed to high levels of violence”, with 299 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in 2018, and 31,723 injured (mostly in the context of Great March of Return protests in Gaza).

READ: Egypt medical convoy treats Palestinians in Gaza 

Moreover, the WHO reported, 2018 saw “an unprecedented 432 attacks against healthcare in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”.

“In Gaza alone, three health workers were killed and 570 injured, 41 with live ammunition, while providing care to those injured in Gaza’s Great March of Return,” the WHO stated.

Meanwhile, “over a half of conflict-affected children may be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, while the long-term consequences of injuries, with more than 6,000 live ammunition injuries in Gaza alone over the year, put strain on an already overburdened health system.”

Speaking at the launch event, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, described a “dire humanitarian situation” for Palestinians.

“No patient should have to worry about being prevented from accessing essential and lifesaving treatments, whether access to health facilities requiring Israeli-issued permits or access to essential medicines within Palestinian health facilities,” McGoldrick stated.

“No health worker should have to go to work with the fear of being shot at and killed. WHO’s report underlines the immediate need for our collective efforts to strengthen the protection of healthcare.”

(Source / 10.10.2019)