From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS Ahli Arab Hospital provides Mobil Outreach Clinic

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Tue, 10 Dec 2002 15:35:40 -0800

ACNS 3225     |     GAZA     |	   10 DECEMBER 2002

Ahli Arab Hospital Mobile Outreach Clinic provides vital program

Sitting cross-legged on her bed in her white shawl and black dress, a faint
smile showing across her weathered face, Hadba looked quite at home while
recovering from uncontrolled hypertension at the Ahli Arab Hospital earlier
this week.

Yet it's rare to find a patient who lives in her region at any hospital
these days. Hadba's village near the Jewish settlement of Kfar Darom has no
hospital of its own, and nearby military checkpoints prevent fellow
villagers from receiving health care in nearby communities.

Enter the Mobile Outreach Clinic. The new service offered at Ahli Arab
Hospital, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, is allowing
villagers like Hadba to receive desperately needed medical treatment for the
first time in months.

"Every time I see them here, I think, 'God bless them,'" hospital director
Suhaila Tarazi said Wednesday, as she watched clinic patients line up for
the buses that would take them back to their home villages.

The monthly clinics, which started this fall, offer buses to pick up
patients outside their villages and take them to Ahli Arab. Patients receive
access to paediatric, dermatology, gynaecology, urology, cardiology,
surgical and medical care. All services are free, including laboratory
tests, radiology exams and medications. The clinic also provides patients
with food supplies.

Each clinic attracts some 170 families - or more than 500 people. The mobile
outreach service aims to help people from the villages of Al Mawasi, Um Al
Dohair and Mogharakia and surrounding areas, which suffer an estimated 95
percent unemployment rate.

Villages targeted by the clinic are virtual islands surrounded by Jewish
settlements, military encampments, and Israeli military checkpoints. These
checkpoints prevent most residents from travelling to nearby locales, such
as Gaza City, for medical care. Those people who do happen to make it
through the checkpoints are not allowed to take any metal objects with them.

Fatima, one of the patients at Wednesday's clinic, said soldiers would not
even allow her to take hair clips, coins or clothes with zippers through the
checkpoint. She said she was separated from her husband and two of her three
children because soldiers would not allow her to return to her village
during the past month.

"Why, in Al Mawasi, do we always have to suffer?" she asked in Arabic. "We
are asking for human rights people to come and help us."

Despite the difficult situation facing these villagers, most are not
refugees, so they do not have access to help from the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency and other refugee assistance groups. As a result, they are
virtual prisoners in their own towns, with no access to food, supplies or
medical care.

Ahli Arab Hospital cannot obtain the permits from the Israeli military
needed to bring doctors or medical supplies into these villages, so
residents must walk past local checkpoints, where a bus waits for them. The
majority of people who come are women because soldiers will not allow boys
older than 8 or men younger than 45 through the checkpoints.

Still, a handful of elderly men made the trek over last week. One man, Adel,
said that a French humanitarian agency (Doctors without Borders) tried to
help his village, but Israeli soldiers would not let them inside. He said he
was thankful to have the mobile clinic come to his village.

"We hope to see them more and more."

Patients on Wednesday sat in plastic chairs and conversed under an outside
canopy while waiting for hospital staff to call their numbers. The mostly
female crowd was dressed in varied attire, ranging from black shawls that
covered almost every part of the body to mere dresses with head scarves.
Meanwhile, children played near the canopy or contentedly munched on

Doctors say the majority of paediatric patients they see are malnourished.
Al Mawasi, a village of 10,000 people, has no hospitals and only one
government primary health care clinic with an extremely limited supply of
medicine. Other villages offer no medical care at all. Many families in
these villages are living on tomatoes if they happen to grow in the region.
Others simply starve when military curfews are fully enforced.

A doctor running the dermatology clinic said he has encountered many
"environmental problems," including fungal infections, bacterial skin
infections, eczema and scabies. Many people have had their hair fall out
because of nutritional problems and stress reactions.

Meanwhile, a paediatrician said that many children have chest infections,
such as asthma, croup and colds. Several children also have diarrhoea linked
with contaminated drinking water, pinworms and other parasites.

Dr Yousef, who ran the medical clinic Wednesday, said he mostly sees cases
of diabetes, hypertension, stomach ulcers and various infections, such as
tonsillitis. Many of these may be indirectly related to the stress of the
regional violence, he said. Many patients go to bed at night to the sounds
of bombs and bullets.

Hadba confirmed Dr Yousef's account as she sat on her hospital bed.

"We ask that God would help us," she said in Arabic, pointing to the sky.
"But we are suffering not only in the night, but also in the day.... Women
and children are scared and stressed all the time. They can't sleep because
of the tanks, helicopters and guns."

The situation is difficult for hospital employees, too. Ahli Arab social
worker Mohammed Al Naqa looked weary after a sleepless night of listening to
Israeli forces bomb the area surrounding his home. He also was hungry
because Muslims like himself fast during the day during their holy month of

Still, Al Naqa maintains optimism when talking about the Mobile Outreach
clinic, which received help from three volunteer doctors on Wednesday. The
clinic appeared to go seamlessly, but that was because of three prior days
of preparation, he said.

The hospital must first send a womens committee into the villages to
advertise the clinic, determine resident needs and find out how many people
want to attend the clinic, Al Naqa said. A few days later, the hospital will
send a bus during the wee hours of the morning to pick up patients, he said.
The 25-kilometer bus ride to the hospital takes some three hours because of
delays at various military checkpoints.

Occasionally, doctors will find a patient who needs special hospital care,
and they will schedule them for a follow-up hospital visit. Such patients
receive free medical treatment. For example, the hospital offered to pay for
surgery for Fatima on Wednesday after discovering she would need hernia
repair, and Hadba received free treatment for her case of uncontrolled
hypertension and diabetes.

Such free medical care has taken its financial toll on the hospital, which
had a $400,000 deficit for the first six months of this year. However,
support from local charities has kept Ahli Arab alive. Financial aid from
groups such as the Australia-based AngliCORD, Episcopal Relief and
Development (USA), the Church World Service, The United Church of Christ and
others have made the Mobile Outreach clinic a reality.

Financial and political constraints make work difficult for the hospital
staff, but Tarazi said the work has its rewards, too. She noted a woman on
Wednesday who waved and asked for Gods blessing on the hospital as she left
the clinic.

"After it's all done, and we have put a smile on the face of somebody, it
makes it all worth it."

[Photographs to accompany this article are available from]

The ACNSlist is published by the Anglican Communion Office, London.

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