Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Appeal

On Sunday we had a day long power cut and I made porridge and soup on top of the log burning stove in the sitting room. We used paraffin lamps and electric torches for light. It was inconvenient, but we managed fine, and we had no accidents.

But imagine my house had been bombed out and I was living in a makeshift shelter in the ruins of it. Imagine if I had power cuts every day, as they do in Gaza.

Palestinians in Gaza don’t have the services and appliances that we take for granted. They are forced to rely on primitive, "make-do" equipment for cooking, heating and washing, using gas cylinders, petrol and naked flames as fuel.

And because so many of them live in cramped and inadequate living conditions, there are frequent domestic fires. There is only one burns unit in the whole of Gaza, a strip of land where there are one and a half million people.

In the West Bank, the situation is just as dire. It would take me 45 minutes to get to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. But for a burns victim living in Hebron in the West Bank, a 45-minute journey for medical attention can take up to five hours due to the number of Israeli military checkpoints that must be crossed before reaching the Rafideyah burns unit in Nablus in the north.

Once they've reached the unit, overcrowding and a lack of staff mean burns victims often face a further wait. It means their injuries have time to intensify and in some cases become life-threatening.

When a gas canister exploded at their house in a village just outside Hebron, the Farhan family became trapped in a fire that caused terrible injuries to Mr Farhan and four of his children. The emergency services took so long to arrive that neighbours rushed the family to hospital in their own vehicles. But in Hebron, the hospital was not equipped to deal with burns injuries, and Mr Farhan's youngest daughter, Haneen, died before she could be transferred. Her wounds were not life threatening, but she died because of a lack of a burns unit. She was three years old.

There was no time to grieve. With three other seriously ill children all suffering from burns, Mr and Mrs Farhan were desperate to find proper treatment - but it proved impossible. One of their daughter’s had burns over 70% of her body.

"They were not able to treat us in Hebron.They bound my daughter's burnt hand without separating the fingers. This meant that she lost two fingers. I believe that they cut them because it was easier than giving long-term treatment. They did not have the ability to offer long-term care. She is just nine years old and now she is ashamed to go to school."

The result of poor housing conditions is that fires like this are not rare. And a lack of awareness, equipment and trained medical staff only compound the burn injuries.

There is a desperate shortage of burns facilities in Gaza and the West Bank, and even the existing unit at Rafideyah hospital in the northern town of Nablus suffers from a lack of staff, training and equipment.

It's for these reasons that Medical Aid for Palestinians has committed to raise £1 million over the next three years, to provide help in three key areas.

They plan to:

(1) train medical staff nationally to understand and treat burns

(2) upgrade the existing burns unit in the northern Rafideyah hospital of the West Bank and Al-Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip

(3) build new satellite burns units in Hebron for the people living in the south of the West Bank, and Khan Younis for the people living in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

They need your help

If you agree that the people of Palestine must be allowed access to proper healthcare, and would like to make a donation, please follow this link.

Please show solidarity with the people of Palestine and help ease their suffering.

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