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Hanin Yassin

Gaza's cancer sufferers cut off from vital care

Large numbers of Palestinians are left waiting to cross the Rafah border [Anadolu/Getty]

Date of publication: 19 February, 2015

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Features: Israeli siege and closure of Egypt's border crossing prevents Palestinian patients receiving treatment in foreign hospitals.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the strip continue to suffer from shortages of food, housing and medicine in the ongoing siege on Gaza by Israel and the continued closure of the Rafah border by Egyptian force. 

Those with more dire medical conditions are also barred from travelling outside Gaza to get life-saving treatment. Salma al-Noman is a Palestinian mother who has lost all hope of getting her four-year-old son treated for leukaemia at an Egyptian hospital.

"I'm unable to do anything," she told al-Araby al-Jadeed. "All I can do is wait for my child to die right in front of my eyes. What has my child done to deserve this?"

"We received a referral for treatment in Egypt," Noman added, "but the closure of the Rafah crossing prevented us from leaving." 

Noman queued with thousands of other Palestinians desperate to cross the border when Rafah was briefly opened by Cairo last month. But she failed to cross due to limits on numbers.

     The Assistance and Hope Programme that cares for cancer patients in Gaza revealed it was receiving ten new patients every week


Salem Abdul Aziz is another Palestinian parent witnessing the slow death of his cancer-stricken daughter. After receiving a referral from the Palestinian ministry of health to treat his daughter in Jerusalem, Salem was unable to take her due to Israeli authorities prolonging procedures, which meant he could not get through the Erez crossing to Jerusalem.

Despite an increase in the number of cancer patients in the region, and with the disease being the second highest cause of death in Palestine after cardiovascular disease, health services in the Gaza Strip lack the necessary facilitates to diagnose and treat such cases.

A report by the ministry of health in the Gaza Strip in February 2014 stated there were 12,600 cancer patients in the region.

The Assistance and Hope Programme, which cares for cancer patients in Gaza, has said it is receiving 10 new patients every week.

The Palestinian ministry of health in the Gaza Strip stated that 500 patients were currently on a waiting list to receive treatment outside the besieged territory.

With such alarming figures in cancer diagnosis, combined with the lack of treatment methods, Gaza's woes seem to only grow.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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