Thousands of Gazans seek treatment in Cairo

Thousands of Gazans are taking advantage of an open border crossing with Egypt since 1 June to seek treatment for a range of illnesses in Cairo hospitals, according to IRIN.

“Israel’s blockade has left everything in Gaza in tatters. People can’t find the simplest things to meet their needs,” said 40- year-old Gazan Sayed Abu Asi, whose sixyear- old son Mohamed has a severe deformity in his right leg.

Due to the scarcity of medical equipment and medicines in Gaza, he said he had been trying for months to bring his son to Egypt for treatment but the Rafah border crossing had always been closed.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered an indefinite opening of the border, Gaza’s only conduit to the outside world not controlled by Israel (apart from the illegal tunnels between Gaza and Egypt), the day after Israel’s military action against an aidcarrying flotilla on 31 May.

On 1 June, Abu Asi and his son made it through the Rafah crossing and now the boy is being treated in Nasser Medical Institute in northern Cairo, one of several hospitals giving free treatment to Palestinians.

According to the Egyptian government, some 16,000 Gazans have crossed into Egypt so far at a controlled rate of around 500 a day. All those IRIN spoke to complained of the helplessness they felt in Gaza, with severe limits on imports and exports and the inability to rebuild damaged homes and infrastructure.

“The situation in Gaza is worse than words can say,” said Sami Abdeen, who was also receiving treatment at the Nasser Medical Institute. “There’s no food, no medicine, nothing at all. Israel doesn’t even let cement into the Strip for us to build our homes, which it destroyed last year.”

Israel has partly eased its three-year economic blockade of Gaza by allowing in some humanitarian items it used to ban. However, the UN, aid agencies and the international community have been urging Israel to completely lift the blockade, which it says is in place for security reasons. In a 14 June press statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Gazan suffering could not be addressed simply by providing aid. “The closure imposed on Gaza chokes off any real possibility of economic development. Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty, and warfare, while the quality of Gaza’s healthcare system has reached an all-time low,” it said. (See Gaza Report on page 28.)

The ICRC said stocks of essential medical supplies in Gaza were depleted “because of a standstill in cooperation between the Palestinian authorities in Ramallah and Gaza”. At the end of May 2010, 110 of the 470 medicines considered essential, such as chemotherapy and haemophilia drugs, were unavailable. More than 110 of the 700 disposable items that should be available were also out of stock

“The state of the health-care system in Gaza has never been worse,” said Eileen Daly, the ICRC’s health coordinator in Gaza. “Health is being politicized: that is the main reason the system is failing. Unless something changes, things are only going to get even worse. Thousands of patients could go without treatment and the long-term outlook will be increasingly worrisome.”

This situation has driven Abu Asi and thousands of other Gazans to Egypt.

“Most of these people suffer chronic diseases because of the hard conditions they experience in Gaza. Some have kidney failure, others have cancerous tumours, but the majority have bone deformities,” Bahaa Abu Zeid, manager of the Nasser Medical Institute, told IRIN, adding that the hospital has been receiving around 70 Palestinian patients a day.

“The bitter reality is that there is a complete generation of Gazans who will be dependent for the rest of their lives,” Abu Asi said. “They’re young people who lost their legs in Israeli attacks. They’ll grow up always needing help from others.” See the Palestine Report on page 28.

17 graduate from WCMC in Qatar

Seventeen graduates of the Class of 2010 received their medical degrees from from Cornell University at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in May. Their graduation was the culmination of six years of study and training with Qatar’s first and only medical college.

Dr Mohammad Fathy Saoud, President of Qatar Foundation congratulated the new physicians and said: “We applaud their determination and hard work. Their accomplishment is evidence that we are making real progress towards our goal of building a knowledge-based society in Qatar. As they move ahead in the medical profession, they take our commitment to excellence in education and research with them beyond our borders to the world.”

Javaid Sheikh, MD, dean of WCMC-Q said: “The graduation of our third class is a welcome opportunity to reflect on this unique and flourishing international partnership. The progress of these young men and women and the growth of our medical college are testimony to the strong commitment of our mother campus and

Cornell University and the dedication and hard work of our faculty, staff, the Qatar Foundation and all our partners. Together, we are helping to reignite the flame of scholarship that made the Middle East a beacon of learning in the Middle Ages.” Cornell University President David Skorton, MD, addressed the students directly: “Members of the Class of 2010, you represent a new generation of physicians for a region and a world in urgent need of your skills. You are destined to have a bright future in a world that desperately needs your talents, skills, and intercultural understanding. But I hope you will do more than excel in your chosen professions; I hope you will also build upon the commitment to service that you have demonstrated so well during your years at the medical college to assist those who have been less fortunate. Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned and Qatar Foundation provide a wonderful example to remember as you continue your life’s journey.”

The graduates then stood and repeated after Dr Sheikh the Hippocratic Oath, embracing the sacred promise of physicians to treat the ill to the best of their ability and uphold the ethics of their profession.

The new physicians, six women and 11 men, represent nine nationalities: Qatar, Bosnia, Canada, Egypt, India, Jordan, Syria, Pakistan and the United States. They move onto the next stage of their medical and scientific careers, going to residency training or research programmes in the United States and Qatar.

Abu Dhabi launches online physician directory

The Health Authority - Abu Dhabi (HAAD), the regulative body for healthcare sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, has launched the Abu Dhabi Electronic Physician Directory, in a step towards improving public accessibility to healthcare through providing periodically updated information on licensed physicians in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The directory’s website , allows the public to search for physicians by medical topic or health issue; or by direct search through geographical location (Abu Dhabi, Al Ain or Western Region), doctor’s name and surname; or health facility’s name which the physician works at.

The public are also given the option to search by physician’s gender, specialty and sub specialty.

According to HAAD 2009 statistics there are 5,142 doctors, 8,142 nurses and 5,630 allied health professionals working in the healthcare sector in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. – WAM

Most mothers still not seeking antenatal care in Yemen

There has been some increase in the ➤ number of women accessing antenatal healthcare services in Yemen over the past four years, but most mothers still deliver at home and their health situation remains rather bleak, according to new reports from the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The proportion of women benefiting from antenatal healthcare services has increased from 40% to 55% over the past four years, according to an 18 May Health Ministry report covering 2006-2010. At a conference in Sanaa on 18 May sponsored by the National Women’s Committee and the Health Ministry, some women’s rights activists criticised slow progress in antenatal healthcare coverage.

UN Population Fund (UNFPA) deputy representative Zeljka Mudrovcic said 22 women die in Yemen every day due to pregnancy and birth-related complications. “As 80% of women deliver at home, much more needs to be done to improve antenatal health care for women and reduce high mother and infant mortality rates,” she said.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour, supported by UNFPA, launched on 17 May the distribution of 30,000 clean and safe home delivery kits for the year 2010 in an effort to improve this situation. According to WHO’s 10 May World Health Statistics 2010 report, Yemen’s maternal mortality rate was 430 cases per 100,000 live births, the highest in the Middle East.

Antenatal care coverage (“the percentage of women who used antenatal care provided by skilled health personnel for reasons related to pregnancy at least once during pregnancy, as a percentage of live births in a given time period”) was 47% - the lowest in the Middle East, according to the report.

Repeated miscarriages and post-natal bleeding – particularly among girls in rural areas – are among the major factors behind the high maternal mortality rate in the country, according to Nema Naser al- Suraimi, a specialist doctor in obstetrics and gynaecology at al-Thawra Hospital in Sanaa.

“In rural areas, miscarriage is commonplace, particularly as 52% of girls marry before the age of 15,” she told IRIN. Yemen’s adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 years) stands at 80, according to the WHO report. “In many remote villages where health facilities don’t exist or are very far away, many women die inside cars on their way to [maternity] hospitals in provincial capitals,” al- Suraimi said.

“Women in rural areas don’t receive basic health care from the beginning of pregnancy and therefore are prone to multiple birth-related complications.” According to Mohamed Ghurab, another obstetrics and gynaecology specialist at the Sanaa-based Republican Hospital, 70-80% of maternal deaths can be avoided by raising public awareness of the risks of home delivery. – IRIN

Sir Richard Feachem joins UAEU Global Health Institute Advisory Board

Sir Richard Feachem, Professor of Global Health at both the University of California, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley, and Director of the Global Health Group at UCSF Global Health Sciences, has agreed to work with the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) over the next three years as it establishes the UAEU Global Health Institute.

The institute, which will be based at the UAEU campus in Al Ain, will conduct research with local and international partners to address health problems for the nation and the region. The initial areas of research the institute hopes to undertake include epidemiology, ethnography, migrant health issues, epidemic disease and air transport, and areas surrounding refugee health. The primary partnership will be with the University of California Systemwide Global Health Institute, with more planned with Yale, and other universities in Bergen, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Sir Richard will serve as a member of the UAEU Global Health Institute Advisory Board and work closely with the Provost, Vice Provost for Health Sciences/Dean of Medicine and the Director of the Institute.

Detailed report on tobacco use in Egypt released

A comprehensive report monitoring tobacco use in Egypt has been released and reveals some alarming findings.

The report summarises the major findings of the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) – a national household survey conducted in 2009 in all of Egypt’s governorates, covering both males and females, aged 15 years and older, in a total sample size of 23,760. The implementation of the survey and the production of its final report were a collaborative effort between the implementing partners: the Ministry of Health, Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics and the World Health Organisation.

This report paves the way for the implementation of evidence-based policies and measures guided by documented facts, a few examples of which are below:

● Egyptian males are the main tobacco consumers; where 38% of Egyptian males use some form of tobacco products. This percentage increases to 46.1% and 48.9% among the most productive age groups 25-44 and 45-64 years, respectively. The most commonly used tobacco product among Egyptian males is cigarettes with a high average consumption rate of one pack per day.

● Exposure to second-hand smoke is high. Some 56.2% of shisha users smoke shisha at home, while only 35.9% smoke shisha in cafes. Smoking in public places in Egypt is highly prevalent. It is estimated that 80% of Egyptians are exposed to second-hand smoke in public trans portation, more than 70% of them are exposed in restaurants, while about 49% are exposed to secondhand smoke in healthcare facilities.

● The report showed that more than 41% of smokers have attempted to quit at some point. Of those, only 17.9% successfully managed to quit smoking.

The report can be downloaded here: en/index.html

Hospitals awarded for design innovation

The winners for the five categories of the Hospital Build Middle East Awards for 2010 are: Best Physical Environment (Built) - The Children's Cancer Hospital Egypt 57357, Egypt; Best Sustainable Hospital Project – Al Mafraq Hospital, UAE; Best Healing Environment – Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City, KSA; and Best Hospital Building Regulations – Central Board of Accreditation for Healthcare Institutions, KSA. In the final category, Best Hospital Design (Built or Future), the judges agreed to award two projects winning trophies on account of the high standard of the entries. The winners of Best Hospital Design (Built or Future) are Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, UAE, and Al Maktoum Accident & Emergency (A&E) Hospital, UAE.

The trophies were awarded on 1 June at the Hospital Build Middle East Exhibition & Congress in Dubai.

The panel of judges for the awards included Ted Jacobs, President and Founder of Ted Jacobs Engineering Group from the USA, Malek El Husseini, Business Development Director, GE Healthcare Middle East, Dr Joel Nobel, Founder and President Emeritus, ECRI Institute, and Lisa Little Matthews, International Accreditation Consultant at Accreditation Canada.

For the Best Sustainable Hospital Project category, the judges looked for outstanding commitment to sustainability in terms of its design, development and construction. In particular, the judges looked for the innovative use of new materials, products or construction methods, which will save energy and encourage future efficiency.

Commenting on the winner of this category, Al Mafraq Hospital, Little Mathews said the design of the hospital “addressed the current green initiatives within the UAE, including issues around water conservation, efficiencies and waste management systems. It has also taken a holistic approach to sustainability, managing it from both an organisational and wider community perspective.”

Leading global expert heads Dubai’s new limb reconstruction centre

Extreme and serious congenital limb deformities or those caused by accident / trauma, including missing bones and joints, can now be treated in Dubai following the opening of a new centre for treating limb deformities at the American Hospital Dubai. The centre provides new hope for children and adults in the region with limb deformities.

The centre offers new transformational surgical techniques which can produce dramatic results with very high rates of healing for limbs that might otherwise have simply been amputated.

Globally renowned specialist physician Professor Dr Michael Weber, MD, PhD is director of the Center for Limb Lengthening and Limb Reconstruction. He has developed more than 20 of these surgical techniques himself, such as the ‘Weber-Cable-Technique’. He is also the originator of medical classifications of limb malformations.

He describes the techniques he uses as ‘re-engineering the body’ and describes his work as being ‘like architecture in a clinical situation’.

“These surgical techniques are truly transformational and through them we can give new function to the materials in the body that are available to us,” says Dr Weber. “For example, we can use a piece of bone from the hip to build a new ankle, where previously there was none; Or we can use the patella to create a missing knee joint. Once the new function has been defined for the material, the form will follow and the body will remould the natural materials to follow the function that we have created.   


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