Hemophilia and the war in Palestine
For sure, you are either watching or coming across news, reading articles and hearing political point of views or analysis regarding the war or you are seeing marches and protest taking place around the world which is asking for a cease fire and you are hearing calls to stop the genocide which is taking place against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory and specially in the Gaza Strip.
People around the world need to be knowledgeable, humane, fair, and they need to understand and realize what is going on the ground in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, so they can be part of the solution not only to take sides.
I am not a political figure, nor I am trying to affect your point of view, here I will be trying to shed light on the human perspective of the suffering of Palestinians living in war zone and under occupation, where I hope I can highlight specific suffering of one segment of the Palestinian population.
I got an urgent phone call from the Palestinian Society for Bleeding Disorders Society (PSBD), asking me to come to the society’s office in AlBireh city in the West Bank, where I am the board director for PSBD, in order to meet a hemophilia patient from the Gaza strip where this patient was located after being missing for 24 days due to the war.
Since the war has started on Gaza, PSBD staff members and volunteers have been trying to locate bleeding disorders/hemophilia patients in the Gaza strip to make sure they are in good health, and they are not homeless or displaced. PSBD has been doing its utmost to secure the hemophiliacs medication is available at the ministry of health facilities and ensuring hemophiliac patients are taking the medication according to the need and in line with treatment protocols. This vital medication is called clotting factors and it must be available and taken at any minute around the hour from birth to stop spontaneous and injury caused bleeds which happens to males and females during their lifetime to prevent disabilities and death due to prolong bleeds.
At the PSBD office, I was so emotional and shocked to meet for the first time an adult hemophilia patient from Gaza strip. For more than two decades the West Bank and Gaza strip have been separated and isolated by Israel and it is not easy for us Palestinians to meet each other from other regions. I found out in front of me at that moment this was a person with severe disabilities. He is a 32 year old, being not only a hemophiliac suffering from joints and muscle problems resulting in limping, but also he is completely blind using a white cane to direct his step. Upon the patient request, he asked me “Please do not mention my name to the public’’, so I will call him Mr. X. from now on respecting his request.
I asked Mr. X, how he ended up in the West Bank. He answered, “I was scheduled to have a knee replacement surgery, and I was admitted to Sheba Hospital after a lengthy process to get a permit to leave Gaza to Tel Aviv, and I was granted the permit to leave alone, and I got to the hospital with no companion. But when the war started on October the 7th, I was very frightened and left the hospital to be with my wife and 5 children due fear of retaliation.”
Mr. X explained to me how he was arrested at a Hebron/Terqoumya crossing by Israeli soldiers while he was trying to enter the West Bank due to impossibility of getting to Gaza. Mr. X says “While I was trying to return to Gaza to be with my family, I was taken with too many other Palestinian labors to prison, where I spent 14 days at Ofer military prison. It was not easy conditions and lived harsh and difficult situation.” When I asked Mr. X to elaborate on what he went through during his imprisonment, he said “I was so desperate to get both the IV clotting factors (medication) to stop bleeds to minimize the pain in my joints and muscles as a hemophiliac and I kept telling the soldiers I need it, and I also needed a lot of personal and hygiene care. At the end of those two weeks, I was shocked to realize that I was being transferred and handed to the Red Cross staff at another check point between Jerusalem and Ramallah, called Aljeeb in the West Bank, where I was transferred to the Palestine Medical Center complex and received medical treatment.”
While Mr. X is now being sheltered temporarily by a family in Ramallah, he still has many needs to be met where people could come forward and help him, but he presented and emphasized to PSBD that he has two top priorities and requests. He said: “Please I need help to have my left knee replacement surgery done as soon as possible, and to have also specialized dental work which is due to the lack of proper hemophilia care in the past” and the second request that came in an eager tone and facial expression, he asked: “Is it possible to be reunited with my family in Gaza? Is it possible to be with my wife and five children who are now displaced and sheltered at an UNRWA school in Gaza?”.
Mr. X is one of 600 Palestinian hemophilia patients, 200 of them are living in the Gaza Strip. This marginalized group represents the suffering of the Palestinian people living under occupation and through the wars for the last 75 years and since 1948. Palestinian people in the West Bank and around the world need to rise and stand up to meet the many needs that Mr. X, his fellow hemophiliacs and other Palestinian people have.
Human beings and peace lovers around the world must raise their voices asking and emphasizing the freedom Palestinians deserve, and they need to work on immediate ending of the occupation of the Palestinian land and secure the right of Palestinians for self-determination. There is an urgent need to work on the human rights of the Palestinians people and these needs are not limited to shelter, food, water and medicines; it is mainly freedom that they need.
*** Jad K. Tawil Palestinian American Health rights Activist Living in the West Bank, one of the Founders and Current Director of the Board of Directors for the Palestinian Society of Board of Directors, PSBD.