Saving Children’s Lives on the Frontlines of Gaza
GAZA, 8 November 2004 - Dr. Manar el Farra is literally running out of space on his cluttered desk.
The director of the Al-Awda Hospital, which admits emergency cases in one of the most densely populated places on earth in the northern Gaza Strip, has started a collection of exploded ordnance that have killed or injured children and adults.
“We have been seeing strange types of ammunition that are not familiar to us,” said Farra, pointing to a nail bomb that has hooks which makes it very difficult to extract.
Hospital staff need not venture too far to collect ordnance: the 23-bed emergency hospital was itself targeted on October 5, causing damage to the building and expensive medical equipment.
Located near Ground Zero of one of the most heavily targeted areas of Gaza, Farra’s hospital sees its fair share of horrific cases. It admitted 4000 casualties in the last four years alone and performed 200 major operations. Almost 80 emergency admissions were children under 10 years old. “In 37 years of my medical career I had never seen such an experience," he said.
One-third of all admissions to the hospital are children – not surprising given that more than 50 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip is under 18 years old. Farra said most are killed or injured while indoors.
“The children in this area are very scared. They don’t know why this is happening to them. All of them were not involved in the conflict. They were at home.”
During he most recent incursions, UNICEF provided the hospital with Safe Water kits. Discussions are under way to assist further with collapsible water tanks.
Farra said another need is providing psycho-social support to children with permanent disabilities caused during incursions. “Schools need trained personnel to deal with children with conflict-related injuries.
“They need psychological reassurance in such cases when if a disabled child falls down and gets laughed at they are able to regain their confidence.”
Farra says many of the children admitted to this hospital are showing early signs of malnutrition. Due to the deteriorating economic situation no longer are families able to provide nutritionally-balanced meals.