A recent donation from Penta is allowing people with disabilities in Palestine and Lebanon to regain their mobility
Across the regions where Anera works, high quality prosthetics are often prohibitively expensive or simply unavailable. This forces many patients to rely on uncomfortable and badly antiquated mobility aids to go about their daily life. A recent pilot donation of modern prosthetics from Penta Medical Recycling is changing all that for recipients in the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanon.
Anera recently distributed the shipment of prostheses to Gaza to our local partner, the Society of the Physically Handicapped. The shipment contained 41 prosthetics and prosthetic supplies.
Mustafa Abdel Wahab is deputy head of the Society of the Physically Handicapped and himself an amputee. He expresses his deep relief at the arrival of the shipment of prosthetics.
"Amputation cases have grown recently in Gaza, especially in the young,” he notes.
“It’s because of the continued wars and bombings, and the March of Return [demonstrations along the de facto border three years ago], which left dozens of people with amputations."
An estimated 250 to 300 people underwent amputations in Gaza in the last four years, mostly due to conflict injuries and accidents.
Mustafa has long been a champion of and advocate for people with disabilities in Gaza. He says people with physical disabilities confront enormous difficulties living in Gaza, especially in obtaining appropriate prosthetics.
"A bare prosthetic limb does not constitute a practical solution. The silicone liner helps greatly in facilitating the activities of daily life for the wearer and their integration into society."
The silicone cushion liner serves as a socket for the amputated limb to improve control of the prosthetic and ensure a comfortable and secure fit.
The cushion liner can be made of varied materials, but the best is silicone. Liners made of other materials can cause a build up of heat and moisture, leading to slippage and chafing, and sores. Given the discomfort, this may impact the wearer’s decision to go out at all.
That is why the Penta-donated silicon liners come as such a relief to their new owners. Now they can wear prosthetics that are actually comfortable.
"Unfortunately, only the most basic prosthetics are commonly available in Gaza,” Mustafa says. “These don’t enable a person to go about normal life."
The Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetics, which provides free services, is one of only two accredited prosthetics centers in the territory of over two million people.
However, Mustafa says the sheer volume of cases stretches the capacity of these centers and leaves many amputees frustrated and waiting for proper prosthetics.
One of the major challenges in Gaza, Mustafa says, is the lack of an official agency dedicated to people with disabilities, that provides services and advances their rights and needs.
"No one officially takes care of the needs of the physically handicapped. There is no governmental body that works for their rights and their needs to get prostheses fitted."
In general, people with disabilities here live in difficult economic circumstances. The only company selling prosthetic limbs in Gaza recently stopped importing further inventory, due to the lack of purchasing power among residents.
Against this difficult backdrop, Mostafa enthusiastically welcomes this pilot shipment of top shelf prosthetics to Gaza.
"Unfortunately, only the most basic prosthetics are commonly available in Gaza.”
For Mustafa, it’s personal
Mostafa recounts his personal story as a man who underwent an amputation and struggled for years to obtain proper prosthetics.
"I lost my right foot as a result of a painful traffic accident when I was seventeen. I spent seven months in the hospital and my foot was eventually amputated."
This episode changed the course of Mustafa’s life.
"Society had a strong negative view of amputees,” when he was a young man. “There was a total lack of awareness and accommodation for the physically disabled at the time," he says.
Mustafa was able to overcome the ordeal thanks to the support of his family. After the accident, he went on to complete his vocational and university education with distinction.
However, he continued, year after year, to suffer the discomforts of relying upon primitive prosthetics.
In 2001, Mustafa got the opportunity to travel to the US. He was fitted with a prosthetic limb there, and discovered how different the experience of wearing a prosthetic could be.
"Fitting that limb was a quantum leap in my life," Mustafa says. "Good prosthetics help a person to live their life better, participate in his community, and improve their health."
Ever since, Mostafa has devoted his life to working in the service of the physically disabled.
Mustafa says the silicon cushion liners cost some $450 in Gaza. “This is a very large sum in relation to the capabilities of the citizens here,” he observes.
Mustafa even traveled to Egypt recently and conducted an extensive search for a supplier of silicon cushions, to no avail. So he was thrilled when Anera told him about this donation from Penta.
"The cushion liners in the shipment are of a very high-quality brand. This is a great start," he says.
He calls the donation of prosthetics and cushions a "wonderful gesture." "This will greatly help in benefiting people with disabilities who depend on prostheses that are not available in the private or public sector. We hope it will continue to improve the quality of life of the handicapped in Gaza."
"Fitting that limb was a quantum leap in my life."
In West Bank
Ahmad, 34, is from Hebron. In 2014, he fell from a 13-meter-high construction site in Hebron. He spent the next two months in the hospital. When he was released, he was told to rest at home for another five to six months. This meant the better part of a year without income.
Unfortunately, his left foot never healed properly. A dangerous infection eventually led doctors to advise amputating his lower leg.
Following the amputation, Ahmad needed a suitable prosthetic leg so that he could return to living his life independently. However, the prosthetic leg he had needed a new cushion liner to provide a proper fit. This cushion alone costs some $1,200, which Ahmad could not possibly afford.
Thanks to the generous donation from Penta and with the support of Anera, the appropriate silicon cushion liner was provided to Ahmad. After eight years of restricted mobility and little opportunity to function independently, Ahmad can now walk again. This also means that he is now able to pursue employment again. His inability to find work had weighed heavily on Ahmad.
Following his amputation, the community-based rehabilitation program at the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation, which strives to empower people with disabilities, reached out to Ahmad and conducted a full assessment of his rehabilitation, healthcare, and employment needs.Under a holistic approach to intervention, the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation continues to work with Ahmad today to facilitate his access to employment opportunities. He has expressed his interest in owning a small business that would generate income to support him and his family.
In this pilot shipment to the West Bank, Penta included 48 prosthetic pieces that will benefit 48 patients.
Palestinian refugees living in the camps in Lebanon face many daily struggles. For Palestinian refugees with physical disabilities in these camps, the challenges are even greater. To respond to the many challenges confronting Palestinian refugees with disabilities, a local network of groups and organizations launched the Palestinian Disability Forum in South Lebanon to provide services to this community.
At Burj El Shemali Camp, El Buss Camp, and Ein El Hilweh Camp in Saida, South Lebanon, there are a considerable number of Palestinians living with disabilities, which makes the availability of these services immensely important. In partnership with Anera, the Palestinian Disability Forum provides physical rehabilitation and other services at their center and through home visits within the camps.
As in Palestine, the cost of purchasing quality prosthetics is beyond the means of vulnerable patients here. Recently Anera, in partnership with Penta, delivered artificial limbs, including prosthetic feet and a mechanical knee, to the Palestinian Disability Forum and another disability center for distribution throughout the camps.
This shipment builds upon Anera’s ongoing support for patients with disabilities by making essential equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, beds, canes and other devices available.
Considering the success of these shipments to Palestine and Lebanon, Anera looks forward to future collaboration with Penta to further impact and change the lives of marginalized individuals that live with disabilities.