Fifteen deprived Palestinian children will travel to Dubai next week to be fitted with prosthetic limbs in one of the largest such projects undertaken in the emirate. The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Establishment and the Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) have teamed up to bring the children.
There are three kinds of artificial limbs available but the children will be fitted with the most modern technology which will allow them the maximum amount of movement, including picking up objects and will also look better than cheaper alternatives. Some of the 15 lost limbs to illness and childhood disease while others are the victims of war. Earlier this year the two charities brought four children to Dubai to be treated. Among them was Saad Qandeel, 11, who had been so disfigured by shrapnel in an Israeli missile strike that his mother recognised him only by his toes.
Six-year-old Ghada Awad had such a severe case of meningitis that doctors advised that her right leg be amputated. Every year, the PCRF sends dozens of injured children from the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria for free care abroad, and treats thousands more through visiting missions to the territories and Lebanon. In spite of the difficulty of getting the children and their mothers out of the Palestinian Territories due to political impediments such as checkpoints and visas, it is still far better for the children to come to the UAE than to be treated in rundown and ill-equipped hospitals in the territories.
"Because of the medical situation in Palestine, things are becoming very bad," said Saleh Zaher al Mazroei, the acting director of the charity. "Due to the occupation, the children can't get treated so the easiest way for us to help the children there is bringing them here. "Even if you could send money, they don't even have the equipment to help people and here in the UAE everything is ready for them, medically, socially and financially."
The first child brought here by the Sheikh Mohammed charity came in 2003. The boy was born without a nose and specialists in rhinoplasty built him one. This latest mission is the largest to be brought to the Emirates and the charity hopes there will be many more. It is, said Mr Mazroei, a direct instruction from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, that the charity make the children of the Palestinian Territories a priority in their work.
"Everything we do comes directly from the instructions of His Highness," he said. "He calls and tells us to help people, whether it's Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, from wherever he may be in the world at that time. "When we brought the four children earlier this year, he said he wants more and more. Now we've said that 15 are coming, he said he wants more still. He feels this is a duty to help people around the world."
Last year the charity finished building two hospitals and three schools in the West Bank. It also helped 200 cancer patients in refugee camps in Lebanon, and sent school bags and equipment to children in the country's many camps. Health care in the Palestinian Territories is severely inadequate. Only 78 hospitals serve the entire Palestinian population of about four million. Many cannot afford even the most basic necessities such as paracetamol and sheets for the operating theatres.
Some 600,000 children live in poverty and do not have adequate access to health care. Seventy-five per cent of Palestinian health care professionals are unable to report for work regularly because of restrictions on movement around the territories. More information on the charities' work can be found at www.pcrf.net and www.mcharity.org email@example.com