A Humanitarian Project for Saving Childrenâ€™s Lives
By Susan Schwartz, TMO
The nation of Gaza, Palestine, has been called the worldâ€™s largest outdoor prison. The civilized world is justifiably repelled by the suffering of the people of Gaza under the boot of Israeli occupation. While many individuals and groups within and without Gaza work to alleviate the suffering there, one organization in particular deserves recognition.
The Palestine Childrenâ€™s Relief Fund (PCRF) is no stranger to the readers of The Muslim Observer. The PCRF is the worldâ€™s largest childrenâ€™s charity dedicated to serving the medical needs of children in the Middle East. In a recent issue of The Muslim Observer readers learned of the opening of a medical department created through the work of the PCRF and devoted solely to pediatric oncology, the first of its kind, in Palestine.
Now the PCRF has brought its â€œhealing heartsâ€ campaign to Gaza. The group plans to build a Pediatric Cardiac Department in the European Hospital in Gazaâ€™s Khan Younis. This Department is being built under the guidance of the International Palestinian Cardiac Relief Organization (IPCRO). The group is composed of international volunteers and was established by the PCRF in 2003 as the main consulting arm. The first open heart surgeries on children in Gaza were done recently under the auspices of the PCRF.
This is a two fold program. First the program seeks to provide life saving clinical care to children in Gaza who suffer from congenital heart disease. Second the program seeks to provide training and experience to develop adequate services within the existing health care system.
There are two approaches to the latter concern. Over 300 babies in Gaza are born with congenital heart disease each year. Volunteer medical missions from all over the world will be brought into Gaza to operate on afflicted children in the European Hospital. The PCRF wants to support 12 volunteer surgery teams within the first two years of the project.
The second is to provide short term training courses and support for specialists in the program outside of Gaza. They will learn in a nurturing environment that will enable them to return to Gaza with the skills and training necessary to work with their stricken patients.
In April a ten member international team from Italy, Palestine, and the United States led by surgeon Stefano Luisi launched the project.
Also in April Dr. Ziad Saba, the Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at Oakland Childrenâ€™s Hospital in Oakland, Ca. began helping children with congenital heart disease treatment in the catheterization laboratory in the European Hospital.in Gaza. This was done under the auspices of the PCRF.
Dr. Imad Tabry, a heart surgeon from Fort Lauderdale, Florida returned to Gaza yet again to perform open heart surgery on needy children. This also – as with previous missions – was done under the auspices of the PCRF.
The work of the Palestine Childrenâ€™s Relief Fund is wide and deep. In addition to medical missions sent several times a year to help needy children and to teach medical personal in the Middle East, their work includes: mechanized wheel chairs, fitted eye glasses, a womenâ€™s empowerment program, summer day camps for the disabled, disaster relief, and work in refugee camps. If ever it is deemed that the ailing child can best be treated abroad, the child is flown for treatment to another nation. The entire sequence of events is free of charge to the child.
Readers who wish to learn more about the excellent work of the PCRF and/or to donate much needed funds may access their web site at: www.pcrf.net.