MP and former MAP volunteer Dr Philippa Whitford returns to Gaza

It was a return trip a long time in the making, but last week surgeon and Member of Parliament Dr Philippa Whitford revisited Gaza for the first time in 25 years.

In the early 1990s Dr Whitford worked with her husband as a medical volunteer for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) at the Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza city. During this year’s Easter parliamentary recess, she travelled to Palestine in her capacity as a breast cancer specialist – performing surgeries for Palestinian women at a hospital in East Jerusalem, and providing educational seminars and assessing breast cancer care provision across the West Bank and Gaza. Dr Whitford also visited a women's health clinic in al Bureij refugee camp in Gaza, and met with the head of the Dunya Women's Cancer Clinic in Ramallah, to hear how MAP's projects and local partners are supporting Palestinian women affected by cancer to access the care they need.

In visiting Gaza this month, Dr Whitford also became the first backbench MP to enter via the Erez crossing since 2009.  Access is vital to the independent evaluation of the humanitarian situation in Gaza following nine years of blockade and successive military assaults, including the latest attack in 2014 which killed over 2,000 Palestinians and has left another 75,000 still homeless. Last year, following a campaign by MAP and the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu), 101 MPs signed an Early Day Motion calling on the government to demand the Israeli authorities to permit MPs access to the territory.

Over the next few weeks, we will be telling the story of Dr Whitford’s return to Palestine with MAP: seeing how Gaza has changed over the last quarter-century, showing the obstacles to treatment for Palestinian breast cancer patients, and explaining how MAP’s projects are helping address their needs across Palestine.

Watch the video below to hear Dr Whitford’s initial reflections on returning to her former hospital in Gaza, and meeting her many former colleagues who still work there:

​If you would like to support MAP's work with Palestinian cancer patients in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, please click here.

Featured image: Dr Philippa Whitford MP (R) performs a mastectomy at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem.

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