Keep your promises, plead Wafa Hospital patients and staff

by Julie Webb-Pullman

Press Conference in the rubble of Al Wafa Hospital, Shejeiyah, Gaza

Press Conference in the rubble of Al Wafa Hospital, Shejeiyah, Gaza

Al Wafa hospital staff and patients today made a desperate plea to donors to make good on their promises, and deliver the money to rebuild their rehabilitation hospital destroyed in last year’s brutal Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip.

“We started fundraising the same day our patients were forced to leave,” Executive Director Basman Alashi said after today’s press conference, held in the rubble of the 8,000 sq.m. facility in Shejieyah.

“Twenty million dollars was pledged, but so far we have received only $70,000.”

Mr Alashi explained that this was largely due to the problems experienced over the past 12 months with getting construction materials in through the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and donors’ reluctance to front up with the money while these obstacles remained.

“The situation has changed,” he said. “The materials are now here in Gaza, and more can be brought in. We just need the money to pay for them. We urge those who promised to help us to speed up the process, because their promises so far have not materialized, and this is really affecting the lives of thousands of people.”

Aya is one of those people. Paralysed from the waist down by meningitis, she is one of the 10,000 people a year who depended on Wafa’s services – the only specialized medical rehabilitation services in Gaza City. Without them she is robbed of the opportunity to become independent and productive again, a goal she is determined to achieve to avoid becoming a burden and a liability to her family.

Aya during the 2014 offensive, able to feel terror but not to flee

Aya during the 2014 offensive, able to feel terror but not to flee

Basman Alashi pointed out that disabled people are at the end of the queue for treatment outside of Gaza, as they do not need life-saving treatment, but rehabilitation – and the last Israeli offensive just created at least another 1,000 who will need their specialized services.

“It was not just the hospital that was destroyed. The people who use its services are unable to travel outside, they cannot cross the borders, so their hopes for a productive future live and die with them here in Gaza, with Al Wafa,” he said.

There was one bright note: UNDP came in for a personal thankyou from the Executive Director.

“They are the only ones to have helped so far,” he said. “They gave the funds to build a new floor at another service, as temporary accommodation for Al Wafa patients displaced by the destruction of their hospital.”

Now it is up to the rest of those who promised to help, to also deliver.

“They know who they are, and they have my number,” Basman smiled.

In case they have forgotten, here is a reminder – as well as his email address – so donors old and new should have no trouble stepping up to ensure that Wafa Hospital rises from the rubble, and ‘walks again.’

Basman Alashi, Executive Director, Al Wafa Hospital Phone: (+972) 059 8877 011 Email: bexecutive@elwafa.ps