‘In the last 10 days, medical staff at Gaza’s main hospital, Al Shifa, have performed more than 300 surgeries,’ says Frederic Vigneau, executive director at the UAE branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), the international humanitarian organisation. Speaking from Abu Dhabi last week, Vigneau says MSF has been trying to support the hospital, which he describes as being ‘completely overwhelmed’.
With the death toll rising upwards of 900, and many thousands more injured, MSF is providing equipment and tents to set up makeshift operating theatres to better cope with the influx of casualties. The charity is also supplying specialist surgeons, but of grave concern is the restricted access these specialists have to the wounded. ‘The numbers of casualties we’re seeing today have not been seen for decades,’ Vigneau says. ‘But there are no safe places to deliver care when you are being bombed.’
MSF is also trying to provide care to those who cannot leave their houses, because it is too dangerous. ‘People who are not wounded still need medical care. I’m thinking, for example, of a pregnant woman,’ Vigneau points out. ‘We’re sending medical staff into homes, but the problem remains that of accessing them safely.’
Vigneau adds that the easiest way for people in Dubai to help MSF is to send funds so that the charity can provide Gaza with more medical supplies.
Palestine Children’s Relief Fund
The PCRF has a number of social workers on the ground in Gaza, but according to Nadia Wehbe, the charity’s spokeswoman and medical liaison, the circumstances are ‘very extreme’.
‘Our social workers out there say the situation is dire,’ Wehbe tells Time Out. ‘They’re doing whatever they can, but it depends on the safety of the areas they’re working in – it is very, very difficult.’ Wehbe says that volunteers from PCRF are struggling in conditions where there are just two hours of electricity a day. The fact that many checkpoints are closed, or only open for around 30 minutes each day, means a lot of volunteers are stuck waiting for resources to arrive.
Wehbe adds that while the PCRF is concentrating on working closely with families now, it is also focused on dealing with the aftermath of Israel’s intervention – assuming the fighting stops. ‘We will be needing funds for treating children who have been badly burned, who will need plastic surgery and prosthetic limbs,’ she says.
‘The list is endless.’
The PCRF recently received a sizeable donation from Sugar Daddy’s Bakery at the Village Mall in Jumeirah Beach Road. The bakery’s chef baked a batch of special cupcakes to symbolise solidarity with the children of Palestine and then donated the proceeds. Sugar Daddy’s also invited the Palestinian children that PCRF is working with in Dubai to the bakery to eat free cupcakes. The PCRF brings Palestinian children over to Dubai for specialised medical treatment that they cannot access in their home country. Visit www.pcrf.net
The Dubai Cares initiative was first launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in 2007. It has packaged 50,000 basic school kits and 50,000 hygiene kits for the children of Gaza between January 14 and January 17. The organisation relied on volunteers to help package around 10,000 kits a day, with the Dubai International Financial Centre providing th use of Emperor Hall for the operation.
Chris Tight, head of campaign development at Dubai Cares, says: ‘We are assessing the situation on the ground in Gaza and creating initiatives accordingly. But what we really need is people’s time and energy.’ Would-be volunteers should keep their eye on the website, www.dubaicares.ae, to see how they can help with upcoming initiatives.
Dubai Cares is also working on a project with schools in the UAE to create a ‘collage of hope’ that they will send to children in Gaza once the situation is resolved. ‘When the kids go back to their normal daily routine they can hang up the collages in their schools and feel like someone else is thinking about them,’ explains Tight.
Dubai Cares aims to improve children’s access to primary education in developing countries, and has raised in excess of Dhs1 billion since its inception.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation
The foundation has provided medicine, food and medical equipment to Gaza, and also donates to the PCRF. The foundation’s Saleh Zaher Al Mazrouie says the scale of violence in Gaza right now has prevented goods from getting through, but tells Time Out: ‘People can donate to us financially, hopefully enabling us to empower and provide NGOs with the help they need to help the people.’
Al Mazrouie adds, ‘I hope the people of Gaza can live in peace and look forward to the prosperous and happy life that they deserve.’