Days of Palestine

Sunday, February 5

Gaza medics use technology to battle blockade

Days of Palestine -

In the face of nine years of conflict and blockade, doctors in Gaza continue to show incredible determination to provide quality healthcare to the 1.8m people they serve.

But closed off from the rest of the world, opportunities to enhance their skills are few and far between.

With technology making it ever easier to connect across borders, medics from around the world are finding new ways to help their peers in Gaza to overcome the everyday restrictions imposed by the blockade.

The closure of Gaza places severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians. For doctors and medical professionals, this means being often unable to travel out to the West Bank and abroad to undertake training or attend conferences.

This lack of access to opportunities for professional development restricts their ability to provide effective modern care to the people of Gaza.

To help solve this problem, MAP and IDEALS have been sending medical delegations to Gaza since the devastating 2014 attacks, two years ago this month, not only to treat patients when they visit, but also to provide urgently needed training to their Palestinian counterparts in the latest medical practice and surgical techniques.

Even when their visits come to an end, many of these international doctors find ways to support Gaza from abroad.

Virtual Reality

In April, one doctor who visited Gaza with MAP to provide advice to local teams on surgical skill training, Dr Shafi Ahmed, performed the first surgical operation to be live-streamed in virtual reality around the world. Medics and students he had met in Gaza followed the procedures.

In February, Dr Ahmed told MAP why he thinks such technology could be so helpful to Gaza: “I have a huge interest in the use of technology in health education, and believe in Gaza it can be used to overcome the frustrations posed by the blockade.

“This technology can help medics in Gaza communicate with people and get teaching and training from around the world.”

Augmented reality

Another surgeon, Dr Ghassan abu-Sittah saw the impact of the 2014 attacks on Gaza first hand. He worked in Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital during the conflict as part of a MAP delegation, performing reconstructive plastic surgery for those injured.

He wrote about his experience and the attacks on Gaza’s health sector he witnessed in the Independent last year, and spoke with MAP at the United Nations to call for accountability for these attacks.

Dr Abu-Sittah’s support to the medics of Gaza did not end there. He recently used a different recent innovation – augmented reality technology – to support an operation for a man whose hand was injured when an explosive device left over from the conflict went off in his hand.

He provided advice to the surgical team in Gaza during the operation from his office in Beirut via a live-feed. Al Jazeera covered the operation in their latest short documentary ‘Operation Gaza.’

So long as the blockade and closure of Gaza remain in place, the territory’s dedicated medics will struggle to update their skills, and medical practice will be held back while the rest of the world advances.