Baraa is living with celiac disease in Gaza
This Palestinian teen is thriving, despite her illness
Baraa is a 10th grader from Gaza City. She loves reciting poetry and wants to be a doctor when she grows up.
When Baraa was a child, her parents noticed that she wasn’t growing as quickly as her classmates.
“I was short, and I had hair loss — even my teeth started falling out,” Baraa recalls. Her parents took her to doctors but couldn’t get a solid diagnosis.
Only after going to the Ard El Insan Clinic were they able to confirm the source of Baraa’s troubles. She had celiac disease. If she eats foods with gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley grains — her immune system causes an inflammatory reaction in her digestive system.
Unfortunately for Baraa, grains with gluten are common in Palestinian cuisine. She used to suffer from frequent stomach ulcers and pain. “There were times when I got tired easily. It affected my grades at school,” she says.
For the last five years, she has been relying on Ard El Insan Clinic to help her manage her condition.
Yousef Asfour is Baraa’s physician at the clinic. “Currently,” he says, “there are a growing number of patients being diagnosed with celiac in Gaza.” This may be partly due to improved detection, but the condition is increasing in prevalence globally, for unknown reasons. Tell-tale symptoms include stomach aches, severe diarrhea, and vomiting.
Medicine can be an important tool for early treatment to address common symptoms like stomach ulcers. The only long-term effective treatment is to maintain a lifelong gluten-free diet.
If the condition is not diagnosed and managed properly, the disease can have a lasting impact, limiting skeletal growth and the height and weight of the patient.
Doctors prescribed omeprazole for Baraa, which is used to treat symptoms caused by too much acid production in the stomach.
Like Baraa, many families in Gaza can’t afford this medicine at the market cost. Thanks to a shipment of donated medications from International Health Partners that Anera recently delivered, the Ard El Insan Clinic is able to make the medicine available at no charge to patients like Baraa.
She must take the medicine half an hour before meals. Now, Baraa experiences less discomfort and is doing much better at school.
Like many households around the world, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baraa and her sisters have been occupying themselves baking desserts — but in her home, they’re using gluten-free flour, so she too can enjoy the delicious treats!
A translation of Baraa’s poem
A will to defeat illness
I am a child attacked by a disease
When I was as young as flowers
It didn’t even ask permission
I felt so sad at the beginning
But as time passed, I grew stronger
I’ll defeat you
I’ll never give up or surrender
I was born to fight and to be
Either to be or not to be
I’ll fly all above the world
I’ll fight for humanity
I’ll fight with a smile and a word
I’ll say goodbye to sadness
Thanks to an International Health Partners shipment containing a number of medicines, including antibiotics, antihypertension medicines, anti-diabetic medications, analgesics, and antihistamine medications, Anera recently distributed these pharmaceuticals, and omeprazole 20mg oral capsules, to 16 clinics and hospitals across Gaza.