Palestinian group to build cancer center
By Susan Schwartz
TMO Contributing Writer
The Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) has announced plans to construct a pediatric oncology center in Gaza, a first for that beleaguered land and only the second in the occupied Palestinian territories. This proposed center will be located in a specialized pediatric hospital. Children who suffer from cancer in Gaza must now often make a long trip to Jordan for treatment. There is a pediatric cancer center in the West Bank, but the Israelis put obstacles in the path of those who wish to exit Gaza, even children with cancer.
This construction, now in its early stages, will show the people of Gaza that they have not been forgotten and that their children deserve the same level of treatment and care as children outside of their borders. The estimated construction cost will be approximately 5 million dollars.
The PCRF will support medical missions there as it has done in the pediatric cancer center in the West Bank.
In April 2013 the first and only public pediatric cancer center in the occupied Palestinian territories opened in Beit Jala Hospital in the West Bank. It was named the Huda Al Masry Pediatric Cancer Department after the woman who was the heart of the PCRF and an inspiration to all who knew her and her dedication to the children of Palestine. She was a dedicated social worker and the wife of PCRF CEO, Steve Sosebee. Cancer claimed her life a little more than six years ago. In the final weeks of her life she devoted herself to plans for a pediatric cancer department. In April 2013 her dream became a reality and the Muslim Observer covered the story. Patients there enjoy a trained and caring staff, up to date cancer treatment(s), and there are facilities for parent involvement including overnight accommodations for them. The department in Beit Jala Hospital takes advantage of the latest techniques and treatments and benefited recently from attendance at a Conference with Bethlehem University where palliative care for cancer patients was the topic. A full time social worker assures that the PCRF will continue to have a permanent presence so that they may provide support for families. Treatment there is covered by Palestinian Authority medical insurance since the hospital is a public facility.
Recently the department has added the Huda al Masry Healing Garden where hospitalized children may visit and play during their stay. Summer camp for children with leukemia and related blood ailments begins in the Garden with a variety of activities and an opportunity to integrate with the larger community.
Notables who have visited the department include Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, popular Palestinian singing star Mohammed Assaf, and Bethlehem Governor, Abd Alftah Hmyail.
At a meeting earlier this month Sosebee announced plans for a Pediatric Cancer Center in Gaza. Members of the audience asked if this was not a risky proposition given the likelihood of another Israeli attack and given that the Israelis do not hesitate to destroy non-military targets, even hospitals.
Mr. Sosebee’s reply was, “the PCRF will not operate out of fear.”
Indeed this remark symbolizes the dedication of the PCRF which is no where more exemplified than its work in Gaza. There a staff of 15 operated at an increased level of activity during the August 2014 Israeli attack and serviced the needy without thought to personal safety.
In the words of Sosebee, “we have to keep working until Palestine is free”
To learn more about the PCRF and to keep up with the progress of the proposed Pediatric Center in Gaza, please access the organization’s web site at www.pcrf.net.