Heal 100 Kids

August 11, 2014 11:03 ET

Federal Government Should Not Delay Help for Wounded Gaza Children, Says Heal 100 Kids Founder

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Aug. 11, 2014) - The federal government is being urged to reconsider its unwillingness to facilitate visitor visas that would allow Gaza children to access medical treatment in Canada. Gaza's healthcare system is severely damaged from fighting and overwhelmed by the number of injured civilians, of which 3,000 are children.

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the founder of the Heal 100 Kids project, said, "It's an ethical responsibility to jump and to give help in times of need." He added, "I ask the federal government to work with us to allow severely injured children who are stable enough to travel to access the specialized care that is available in Canadian hospitals."

On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said through a spokesperson that the government was seeking ways to provide assistance to children in Gaza while "avoiding the medical risks and dangers of being transported overseas."

Dr. Abuelaish responded, "It is always preferable to treat injured children close to home and family if possible. But ensuring the safety of Canadian medical staff sent to Gaza would be extremely difficult, given the unstable security situation, where even hospitals have been hit by airstrikes."

The United Nations reports that Gaza's medical services and facilities are on the verge of collapse as a result of the conflict. On August 7, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that of the 29 hospitals in Gaza, 15 have been damaged in attacks, and 9 have closed altogether.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health is planning to refer more patients to hospitals outside the Gaza Strip to access life-saving treatment as well as to reduce the case load in Gaza hospitals to a more manageable level. Heal 100 Kids has established relations with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the World Health Organization to facilitate the movement of the injured to Canada.

If the injured children are allowed by the federal government to enter Canada, care would be provided by the Ontario provincial government at any of the five hospitals that have joined this initiative. "Support by Ontario's Health Minister, Dr. Eric Hoskins, and Ontario hospitals has been very generous," said Dr. Abuelaish.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has not replied to requests to meet with Dr. Abuelaish and his initiative team. "I am confident that given the opportunity to speak in person, we will be able to address all of Minister Baird's concerns," said Dr. Abuelaish. Heal 100 Kids is asking its growing number of supporters to likewise encourage Minister Baird to support the project.

"We are prepared to work with the federal government, as well as the Government of Ontario and others involved, in order to help children injured in the conflict," said Dr. Abuelaish.

Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish is a Palestinian physician and the author of I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey, a memoir about the loss of his three daughters and his niece to Israeli shelling in 2009. He is now based at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

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