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Helping a family from Gaza

Monday 18 May 2015, by Communications and Development Office

As part of the Humanitarian Aid Project, village member Rita Boulos has been assisting a Gazan family during their daughter’s hospital stay in Israel.

Nada A., only 16 years old, suffers from a rare genetic condition that simply cannot be treated by the limited medical facilities in Gaza, her home. When her condition began to deteriorate the only option left to her parents was to get their daughter to an Israeli hospital. While this may by the only option it is by no means a simple one, as sending a child to an Israeli hospital is fraught with difficulties. Even when the family have successfully secured the funds to pay medical costs, and gained the approval of a hospital, the permit is not certain. In Gaza, families awaiting permit approval are sometimes only told their request is successful an hour before their appointed departure time; this leaves families like Nada’s waiting anxiously with packed suitcases until the last moment. Once in Israel, Nada and her mother, who has a permit to accompany her daughter, are faced with the problem of dealing with all the hospital administration in Hebrew, a language they do not speak.

For the past few weeks WAS-NS member Rita Boulos has been helping the family with all the logistics of the hospital stay: Rita translates, and helps complete, all the paperwork, and acts as the intermediary between the doctors and Nada’s mother. The family contacted Rita directly as she has helped them in this way before because, sadly, this is not the first time Nada’s family has had to seek help in sending a child to an Israeli hospital. They first got in touch a few years ago when their baby son was unwell. Nada’s father, a journalist, had heard of the work of the village’s Humanitarian Aid Program (HAP) and sent an email to ask for help.

The HAP began in the wake of the second intifada, when it undertook to bring health care to some villages in the West Bank. During the early 2000s, many villages were cut off from health services. WAS-NS was able to help by conducting medical treatment days with volunteer doctors, and by helping to equip clinics.

Another problem still faced by Palestinians is that occasionally medical procedures are required that are unavailable in Palestinian hospitals. Israel has some of the world’s most advanced medical facilities, which often sit only a few miles away but which are inaccessible to Palestinians, due to the expense, refusal by Israel to grant permits, or both (note: in some cases costs are defrayed by the Palestinian Authority). When resources have been available, WAS-NS has been able to help both logistically and economically with some of these cases. The stories of Malak and Battul can be found on our web site. There have been several others that are not documented there. In recent years, the HAP program was headed (voluntarily) by Ahmad Hijazi, until his death in 2012. When cries for help arrive, the village continues to do so when it can.

In the case of Nada, WAS-NS member Rita Boulos felt compelled to help. The relationship between Rita and Nada’s family has grown to be a personal and friendly one. They talk on the phone once in a while, and on holidays, and whenever there is trouble in Gaza Rita phones to see if they are all right. For Rita, one of the great outcomes of helping families from Gaza and the West Bank is that, through these interactions, Palestinian families like Nada’s can see that the Palestinian citizens of Israel, like Rita, are the same as them. These Palestinian families are happy to see that the Palestinians living in Israel have not changed or become something new which they can no longer recognize. It warms their heart to see that, despite the occupation and despite the separations of ‘48, ‘67, and 2000, the Palestinians have not been divided as a people.

While providing some company and translation during hospital stays is important, Rita feels that more needs to be done for families like Nada’s, particularly because the social effects of these prolonged hospital stays are never addressed. When a Palestinian child is admitted to an Israeli hospital they must be accompanied by an adult and for the entire hospital stay this accompanying adult is not permitted to leave the hospital premises. Neither can they be joined or replaced by another family member at any point. For the doctors in Israel, hospital time is routinized: extra tests are part of procedure even if the patient has brought their medical history from a previous hospital, and every extra day is a cost covered by the Palestinian Authority. Yet, for the Palestinian families, every extra day is a loss of much needed work hours, time that could be spent with their family, and time trapped in a hospital (as it is illegal for them to leave the premises).

So, beyond the bureaucratic difficulties, the language barrier, and even the cost, it is the time consuming nature of these hospital stays that has the widest impact on these families’ lives. Often-times the accompanying adult is a parent, leaving a spouse at home to look after the rest of the children. On a previous occasion when the family had a sick child, the mother stayed in Israel for three weeks. Meanwhile the father was left with all their young children at home, unable to both look after the children and go to work in order to provide for them. These situations cause family tensions that are exacerbated by the overall draining effect of being trapped in a hospital.

With some difficulty Nada’s father did succeed in obtaining a permit to join his wife this time, in order to be with his daughter for a couple of days as she underwent surgery. Unfortunately, he arrived to the news that she would not be having any surgery, as it is too much of a risk to her life. Suddenly finding themselves with some time of their own, Nada and her parents took the opportunity to visit al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, something which is otherwise impossible for Gazans. This brief respite was a welcome one, but, after nearly a month in hospital, the future remains unclear for Nada.

In the photo: the family outside the al-Aqsa mosque

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