For medics in Gaza, even traveling out for training can be an ordeal

In October, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) supported Gaza surgeon Dr Mahmoud Basal to travel to Ethiopia to join an international training on treating patients with serious burns injuries, run by our partner Interburns. His journey to and from Palestine was fraught with difficulties.

As part of MAP’s partnership with Interburns to improve the quality of Palestinian burns care, three plastic and reconstructive surgeons in Gaza were selected by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to attend two burns workshops in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. However, due to travel restrictions, only one surgeon, Dr Basal, could attend.

Leaving Gaza

On Sunday 14 October, the surgeons travelled to the Egypt-controlled Rafah crossing, hoping that the MoH could coordinate their crossing with the Palestinian Ministry of Interior. This was not possible and they had to return home after spending more than eight hours waiting.

The next day, which was the first day of training for participants who had managed to make it to Addis Ababa, two of the surgeons returned to Rafah crossing. The third surgeon apologised for not attending, explaining he was unable to face the expected difficulties on the journey to Egypt.

After a long wait, both surgeons entered the Egyptian side of Rafah crossing. After four hours, Dr Basal received his passport with an approval to pass through Egypt, while his colleague continued to wait until he was denied access and returned to Gaza.

Dr Basal left Rafah crossing at 5pm and travelled alone to Cairo Airport. Due to multiple checkpoints and delays on the 370km journey, he missed his flight, which was scheduled to leave at 3am. Instead, he had to take a later flight to Ethiopia, which left at 10pm.

Attending burns training in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Dr Basal arrived at Addis Ababa airport at 4am, sad to have missed several days, but pleased to be able to participate in second part of the training on ‘Basic Burns Care’. He was touched that Interburns and other participants welcomed his attendance so warmly. He was invited to make a speech, in which he told the participants about his difficult experience of getting there, and shared about how burns injuries are treated and managed in hospitals in Gaza.

Dr Basal later told MAP that the training had been a great experience. He made new friends and was able to share valuable knowledge and practice in burns care with a diverse group of medics from around the globe.

Returning to Gaza

At the end of the training Dr Basal returned to Gaza through Egypt. This time the journey took three days.

He reflected with sadness the humiliation he and fellow travelers experienced: “Everything was humiliating, check points, inspections, and soldiers’ behavior, all the time I was asking myself ‘Why do we live like this?’”

When Dr Basal was asked if he would repeat this experience, he said:

Yes, I would do it again, do you know why? Because we the Palestinians deserve to live the same way that normal people do. I want to represent the good image of my country and to show the whole world that we, the Palestinian people, deserve to live.”

If you would like to support MAP’s burns care work in Palestine, please donate today.

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