(Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility has been sponsoring delegations to Gaza since 1993. In 2009, the group began offering medical service work to the people of Gaza.)
Saying “Farewell” to friends – friends we have returned to and friends we have just met – is unsettling. We are so very thankful for this time in Gaza and wish the imprisonment of nearly two million wonderful people would end.Rich and Grant spent today at Al Shifa hospital consulting on medical exams, Chuck and Don and Laura saw patients. Bob and Laura and I visited the Palestinian Medical Relief Society clinics in the northern part of Gaza. We learned more about the service this organization is doing in primary care throughout Gaza and were impressed by the dedication of the staff of these clinics. From the Bedouin villages in the north and south through the refugee populations in Jabaliya and other camps, the PMRS physicians are providing primary health care to underserved populations.
We discussed the rate ofCaesarian births in Gaza and were surprised to learn that the choice for Caesarian birth seems to be increasing here as it has in the United States. Because health statistics are not fully recorded here, it was not possible to get rates for this or answers to many other health statics questions we raised: Number of patients with Thalassemia, number of children born with Down Syndrome, etc.
In a situation where computer equipment is difficult to obtain and maintain, it is hard to quantify the prevalence of any disease or condition. The single exception to this: The rate of vaccination for communicable childhood diseases is 100% – children are not allowed to attend school without a currentrecord of vaccination and families come routinely to the clinic on their vaccination anniversary for scheduled updates.
This afternoon, Bob and I returned to a northern Gaza area where a dear friend lives. She and her friends particularly like the homemade chocolates that our Kirkland neighbor, Susan, makes and sends with us each time we visit Gaza. I was so happy to be able to give my friend and her family some of this delicious treat again!
She is a nurse, will have a Caesarian birth later this month – her third child in four years. We hope this third Caesarian will go beautifully.Tonight, we said “Good-bye” to many of the colleagues we have worked with during the past week-plus. Our host, the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme has facilitated our visits each day and we are deeply grateful to Abu Husam and the GCMHP staff.
Traffic in Gaza is amazing – hundreds of thousands of people moving rapidly through the streets (cars, trucks, donkey carts, pedestrians) and rarely a traffic light, street sign or patrol person. Without the guidance of GCMHP, we would have been lost!!
Tomorrow, we will pass again through the Erez checkpoint and go to Bethlehem. We’re planning to work with the Palestinian Medical Relief Service for several days in the West Bank before we fly home next week. We are grateful for this time in Gaza… When will we be here again?