A US charity yesterday inaugurated “the first children’s cancer department” in the occupied Gaza Strip, reported Associated Press (AP), which will “prevent the need for dozens of children to make the difficult journey to Israel or the West Bank for treatment, often without their parents”.
The $3 million department, sponsored by Palestine Children Relief Fund, “is designed to treat blood cancer and related diseases, the majority of the roughly 80 cancer cases recorded annually among children in the Palestinian enclave”, stated AP.
PCRF President Steve Sosebee told the media that children with leukaemia and thalassemia, comprising 80 per cent of young cancer patients, will now be treated in Gaza.
“We are proud of that because now these children do not have to be separated from their families and don’t have to have fragmented care which can be broken any time due to regulations of travel.”
However, “cases requiring bone marrow transplants, radiation therapy and nuclear medicine still need to be transferred outside,” he said.
The Gaza Strip has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967, with increasing restrictions on movement that began in the late 1980s dramatically intensifying with a blockade in place since 2007.
Thousands of Palestinian residents seek permits to enter Israel for medical care each year. “The World Health Organisation says that 61 per cent of permit applications for medical treatment were approved on time last year, 31 per cent were answered too late or not at all and the rest rejected.”
Israeli NGO Gisha says “that parents under the age of 55 still struggle to receive permission to enter Israel with their children”, adding “that the slow and taxing permit process often discourages parents from applying for fear of delaying their children’s urgent medical treatment.”