Medical Aid Ensures Treatment for 35 Cancer Patients in Gaza
“It’s impossible for any patients to afford or find the medicine.”
Dr. Zakari Abu Qamar is worried. He has been in charge of the central warehouse at Shifa Hospital in Gaza for the last 16 years, and he says they now have only half of their full supply of medicines in stock. The shortage is particularly acute for chronic diseases and cancer medicines.
Recently, Anera delivered 2,000 vials of bortezomib, which slows or stops the growth of cancer cells. Thanks to a generous medical donation from International Health Partners, Anera has been able to provide 35 patients suffering from multiple myeloma or mantle cell lymphoma with a supply of the anti-cancer medication for the next 18 months. A grant from Islamic Relief USA covered transportation costs for the shipment.
This expensive medicine generally isn’t available in Gaza. Abu Qamar says each patient needs eight vials of the medicine per month, and it’s “impossible for any patients to afford or find the medicine.” He also notes that it comes from a high-quality brand manufacturer.
“This is essential medicine [that] will ease the burden on the health system.”
Because bortezomib is usually unavailable in Gaza, myeloma and lymphoma patients must apply for a permit to seek treatment in Israel. However, treatment outside Gaza comes with its own risks.
The medicine requires a strict dosage schedule - four times daily, for the first 10 days. So every 11 days patients must return to Israel. Many patients confront permit denials or delays in processing their travel applications and can’t complete their cycle of treatment.
Thanks to this shipment, Shifa Hospital is now able to continue treatment for patients facing life-threatening disruptions to their treatment. “We do our best to secure coordination [with a patient’s physicians at the Israeli hospitals] to follow up on the treatment procedures and complete the course of treatment,” Abu Qamar says.
In 2020, Anera became the number one donor to Shifa Hospital. Abu Qamar says that the medical aid has been invaluable. Anera is careful to supply only medicines that the hospital wants and to communicate the expected time of delivery.
He is particularly pleased that the hospital is able to have input on the donated medicine it receives. Unfortunately, a “take whatever you can get” dynamic is all too common in regard to donated medicines. Having few choices in the medicines available to them is a major concern for the hospital. He says, “Selecting the medicine isn’t the norm in Gaza."
The fact that we can choose the medicine based on the need… means a lot to all of us.”
Thanks to the IHP medical donation and IRUSA funds to cover transportation costs, Anera recently delivered the medical aid - including antibiotics, hypertension, and antifungal medications and ferrous sulfate supplements - in this shipment to 15 clinics and hospitals across Gaza. Shifa Hospital, as the only Gaza medical facility specialized in offering the appropriate treatment, was the exclusive recipient of bortezomib.
The views expressed herein are those of Anera and shall not, in any way whatsoever, be construed to reflect the official opinion of IRUSA, its Islamic Relief affiliates, or its donors.