Islamic Relief USA and American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem work together to sustain a hospital in Gaza
AUGUST 11, 2015—In an era of intense interreligious conflict in the Middle East, two faith-based charities, Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA) and the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ), are working together to sustain and expand the service of Al Ahli Hospital, the only independent full-service medical facility in Gaza.
The hospital is an 80-bed facility operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.
Within the last year, IRUSA has provided grants of $795,000 to AFEDJ, first for emergency repairs and supplies during last summer’s conflict and then to begin the creation of a center for the treatment of breast cancer, which is endemic in Gaza and often goes untreated.
“In responding to the recovery efforts in Gaza, I believe that faith-based humanitarian organizations have the opportunity to provide a powerful example for mutual respect and cooperation,” said Anwar Khan, chief executive officer of IRUSA. “We appreciate such a partnership with AFEDJ in Palestine to help those in need, hoping that we will both continue to leverage our collaboration to help keep Al Ahli Hospital a lifesaving institution to all those who need its services.”
Gaza’s 1.8 million residents are at risk both from traumatic, war-related injuries such as broken bones, internal injuries, head injuries and burns suffered during bombing raids, as well as water-borne diseases and death due to treatable illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, said Anne Lynn, president of AFEDJ.
The IRUSA-AFEDJ partnership focused first on emergency relief. During the height of last summer’s conflict, when the hospital’s staff worked for 11 days without interruption, IRUSA provided $295,000 for medical supplies, orthopedic supplies, fuel for generators, and repairs to a bomb-damaged ventilation system that made it possible for the hospital to use its operating rooms.
“There is no doubt that the grant allowed us to keep our doors open in the heat of the crisis,” said Suhaila Tarazi, director of the hospital. “We were able to respond to the most urgent and different needs during and after the war; starting with caring for endless stream of men, women and children with grievous injuries to psychosocial support for women and children and distributing food to vulnerable and displaced families and beneficiaries in our hospital.”
More recently, IRUSA provided $500,000 in seed money to help Al Ahli launch an initiative for the detection and treatment of breast cancer. “Through our work, IRUSA pays special attention to ensuring communities continue to benefit after our projects conclude. We have committed to guaranteeing that Al Ahli Hospital is not just an emergency room but a full-service hospital, where Gazans can depend on quality, ongoing prevention services and treatment for health issues,” Khan said.
Cancer accounts for 12 percent of all deaths in Gaza, and breast cancer accounts for 53 percent of all cancer diagnoses according to a recent study by the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights. According to Australian Overseas Aid, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 80 percent in Australia, 71 percent in Israel and 40 percent in Gaza. Survival rates are seriously compromised by shortages of equipment, trained staff and travel restrictions which lead to delayed diagnosis, Lynn said. A combination of improved education, better access to screening and appropriate treatment should increase these survival rates, she added.
Al Ahli Hospital is the only healthcare provider in Gaza that offers free breast cancer screening. The hospital screens approximately 1200 women a year, twenty percent of whom need further study or treatment. The hospital currently relies on a single analog mammogram machine, but the grant from IRUSA will allow the hospital to upgrade its equipment to perform digital mammograms, Lynn said.
Digital images, she added, can be transmitted to Jerusalem or to the United States for expert evaluation without Gaza residents having to travel.
“We are very grateful to partners and friends who have come at a very critical period during the response and recovery operations in Gaza,” said Ibrahim Faltas, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. “The support from our American Friends’ partnership with IRUSA demonstrates that partners of differing faiths can work together in the name of God for the common good.”
Islamic Relief USA provides relief and development in a dignified manner regardless of gender, race, or religion, and works to empower individuals in their communities and give them a voice in the world. IRUSA operates seven regional offices in the United States: in northern California, southern California, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia, which is its headquarters.
The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem is dedicated to building peace from the ground up by financially supporting education and healthcare available to all in the Holy Land and raising awareness in the United States. As a partner to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, AFEDJ is devoted to respect, human dignity, and the inherent value of each person.