The Gaza strip is a tiny wedge of territory that sits between Israel, the Mediterranean Sea, and Egypt. It is a deeply contested area, and for decades it has been the site of intense conflict.
With frequent Israeli military attacks on the area, and a long running economic blockade, Gaza’s 20-million residents have suffered economically, physically, and emotionally.
In a show of friendship and support, Indonesians raised money to establish a hospital in North Gaza, the area most vulnerable to attacks. And for the last year and a half, more than 300 thousand people have benefited from medical care.
Rami Almeghari has this report from Lede, Gaza.
The Indonesia Hospital in Gaza sits on top of a hill, just outside Jabalya, Gaza’s largest refugee camp, and just 3 kilometers from the Israel border.
In the hospital’s waiting room, I meet 62-year old Um Saddam, who is here to receive treatment for kidney failure. She goes to hospital twice a week to get kidney dialysis. Her son, Saddam Suleiman tells me this hospital has made their lives much easier.
“My mother is a kidney patient. Before this hospital was built, she used to travel a long distance to a hospital far from our home,” said Suleiman. “This hospital, in general, tends to be very comfortable”
The Indonesia Hospital is so named because it was built with the money of Indonesian people, who donated US$9 million through NGO, Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C).
The hospital is a token of friendship between Palestine and Indonesia. As the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia has long showed support for Palestine. Indonesia foreign policy supports an independent Palestine.
With 110 beds, the hospital serves 300 thousand people. Dr. Naser Redwan, head of the surgical department says the Indonesia hospital addresses an urgent gap.
“In the past, there was no special surgeries in the north of Gaza, there was only general and vascular surgery,” stated Redwan.
“The Indonesia hospital has offered vascular surgery, neurological surgery. Open surgeries include kidney surgery, stone or tumor in the kidney, blood and prostate surgeries.”
The hospital was originally intended to provide specialist treatment, especially surgery, and care for those suffering trauma in the wake of Israeli attacks.
But Dr. Ashraf Alqedra, spokesperson for the Gaza Health Ministry explains that it has become a general hospital, offering medical services that Gazans once had to travel abroad for.
“This hospital has become a leading medical utility in northern Gaza, whereas some important services have begun to be offered. These include CT and MRI Scans, as well as the various surgeries,” commented Dr Alqedra.
Located in Northern Gaza, close to the Israel border, the hospital is in the area most frequently exposed to attacks from the Israeli military. Alqedra tells me that the hospital often receives farmers who have been hit by gunfire along Gaza’s northern border.
In the past 8 years, Gaza has been hit by three major Israeli attacks. The territory is also subject to a decade-long Israel-imposed economic blockade, which has left Gaza’s residents deeply impoverished.
80 percent of Gazans receive regular food aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
“The hospital is open to all people of Gaza, with particular medical attention reserved for residents of the north,” explained Muin Almasri, chief for media and public relations at the Indonesia hospital.
“We charge very little for admission and emergencies. For example, an injection is priced at just one shekel, or 30 US cents,” he continued.
Other allies, including United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Turkey have also donated hospitals to the war-ravaged region.
The Indonesia hospital is only hospital that provides training and education for graduates and students of medicine in Gaza.
Since it’s opening, the hospital has been funded by the Palestinian health ministry, and there are now plans to add another story to the building and expand the hospital.