Mother hopes Gaza cancer care will ‘end our suffering’

Dr. Musa and Suhaila Nasir Department for Pediatric Cancer officially will open on Feb. 19 in Gaza. (AN photo by Hazem Balousha)
Updated 08 February 2019
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Mother hopes Gaza cancer care will ‘end our suffering’

  • Israeli authorities have repeatedly refused to allow the boy’s father, Hussein, 67, to escort him on the 30 km journey from Abasan in the southern Gaza Strip

 GAZA CITY: A Palestinian woman has accused Israeli authorities of subjecting her family to “real suffering” over restrictions on escorting their 13-year-old son to hospital for cancer treatment. 

Nisreen Al-Shawaf’s son, Saddam, developed leukemia several years ago and receives treatment in Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank or Jerusalem.

Israeli authorities have repeatedly refused to allow the boy’s father, Hussein, 67, to escort him on the 30 km journey from Abasan in the southern Gaza Strip. The refusals were made on “security grounds,” according to Al-Shawaf.

“The occupation manipulates us and the life of my child,” she said.

Treatment for Saddam’s illness has not been available in the Gaza Strip, which has been under virtual siege since the Hamas takeover in mid-2007. Now Al-Shawaf is looking to a new cancer-treatment center in Gaza to improve her son’s hopes of treatment.

The Dr. Musa and Suhaila Nasir Department for Pediatric Cancer will open on Feb. 19. The center, the largest in the Palestinian Authority, is funded by the Palestine Children’s Relief Foundation, a US-based nongovernmental organization founded in 1991 that provides medical services to sick and wounded children in the Middle East.

Ranan Al-Muthaffar, the foundation’s executive vice president for operations, told Arab News that all children with cancer in Gaza are referred for treatment abroad, but in most cases were unable to travel with their loved ones because of Israeli restrictions on permits.

The $3 million pediatric department will include two 16-room accommodation centers, a 15-bed daily care room, kitchen, pharmacy and library. It will also offer school instruction to help students continue their studies. Staff will consist of a director, four doctors and 17 nurses.

Dr. Zeina Salman, a volunteer doctor with the foundation, said that the department will provide chemotherapy treatment for about half of the cancer patients in Gaza, while those who need radiation therapy will have to travel to other hospitals.

In the meantime, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health is forced to refer cancer patients to Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and Jerusalem, or to Israeli hospitals, where they must pay for treatment.

Al-Shawaf said the journey Saddam must undertake for treatment — from Gaza and through the Israeli-controlled Erez crossing — represents “real suffering.” 

The trip begins with an application for an Israeli permit for the patient and his escort through the authority’s “treatment department.”

Saddam’s father, who is also suffering from cancer, accompanied his son on his first hospital visits.

“But we have been shocked by the authorities’ refusal to accept my husband as an escort for Saddam, and to set impossible conditions for granting a permit,” Al-Shawaf told Arab News.

She said her husband’s requests to escort his son had been denied four times.

Al-Shawaf said Israeli authorities had also forced her to reapply for a permit after she began accompanying Saddam.

The Israeli treatment of cancer patients, especially children, leaves families in a “whirlpool,” she said.

“They are burdened with daily anxiety about the treatment needed in Gaza and the permit
to leave the Erez crossing,” she said.

According to the ministry, 60 percent of patients’ requests for permits are rejected by Israeli authorities, and 5 percent of patients were detained in 2018.

More than 8,500 people, including 608 children, in the Gaza Strip needed treatment for cancer, the ministry said.

In a report issued on World Cancer Day on Feb. 4, the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights said that the psychological and physical suffering of cancer patients in Gaza is compounded by a shortage of medical equipment and medicines.

The center claimed Israeli restrictions had resulted in the deaths of 45 cancer patients in the enclave from 2016 to 2018.


Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

Updated 23 September 2019

Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

  • Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia prepared to celebrate its National Day with entertainment events, firework displays and cultural events, Iran staged a military parade in Tehran on Sunday with tanks, missiles and armored vehicles.

President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian military leaders saluted as ranks of soldiers marched past them in tight unison, followed by an array of military hardware.

Among the weapons on display in the parade, held to mark the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, was an upgraded warhead for the Khorramshahr ballistic missile, said to have a range of 2,000km, and the Kaman 12 drone with a range of 1,000km. Speedboats and warships were shown in video footage on state TV.

Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities in the east of the Kingdom. After the attack the Pentagon ordered US troops to reinforce Saudi air and missile defenses.

In a speech at Monday’s parade, Rouhani denounced the US presence. “Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region,” he said.

“If they’re sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race.

“Their presence has always brought pain and misery ... the farther they keep themselves from our region and our nations, the more security there will be.”

The US aims to avoid war with Iran and the additional troops are for “deterrence and defense,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

“If that deterrence should continue to fail, I am also confident that President Trump would continue to take the actions that are necessary,” he said.