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Aiding Gaza hospital
Funds meet dire need at hospital that demonstrates the meaning of Christian mission


12/1/2006

ON THE FRONT LINES
Hospital administrator Suhaila Tarazi, right speaks with a patient and a nurse on her rounds at Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.  
In response to an emergency appeal, the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem sent $100,000 during the past five months to support the work of the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza.

“The hospital was in dire need,” said the Rev. Charles Cloughen Jr. of Towson, Md., the organization’s president. He and two board members – Phoebe Griswold and the Rev. Canon John Peterson of Washington National Cathedral -- issued an extraordinary appeal in July.

“[The ability of] our Episcopal hospital in Gaza to perform its medical duties is severely limited by the shortage of food, milk, medicine and fuel,” they wrote to members. “Two weeks ago [in July], the electrical power station in Gaza was bombed and destroyed … This is a crisis appeal. Gaza is in a state of emergency.”

Located in the Gaza Strip area of Palestine, Ahli Arab Hospital originally was built by the Church Missionary Society in 1882 in the center of Gaza City. It became a service ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in 1982. During the first Intifada, it was the only non-Israeli hospital run by Palestinians in Gaza.

The hospital plays a major role in providing general medical and surgical care and in preventing illness and disability for all people of the Gaza Strip, according to the Church World Service website.

The hospital is a profound illustration of the mission of the Anglican Church and a visible expression of Christian concern for the community, Coughlin said. Of the more than 1.2 million Gaza residents, fewer than 2,500 are Christian, yet the hospital is known and respected as a provider of the highest-quality health care for all women, children and men of Gaza.

Emergency Situation

Writing in late October, Suhaila Tarazi, hospital administrator, said about half the population still was living without electricity except for a few hours during the day. “There are still no lights during the night, no refrigerators functioning, no water pumps working and no treatment for public sanitation facilities. “Gaza residents are living in distress, poverty and humiliation,” she said.

Aid from the international community also has dwindled, Tarazi said. “Due to the boycott and the restrictions imposed by the international community to the Hamas-led government, no financial aid had transferred to the Palestinian Authority since February. Due to shortages of funds; services of many public institutions have been negatively affected especially in the health and education sectors.”

The worst events of violent clashes between the Hamas and Fatah factions erupted recently, she wrote. “These feuds have led into a high number of deaths and causalities among innocent Palestinians. We also have witnessed an increase in the number of kidnappings of local and foreign nationals as well as a high rate of gang robbery and thefts crimes.

“Under such harsh situation, Ahli is functioning to alleviate the sufferings of the poor. Through Ahli's medical program, we were able to treat a total number of 3,000 patients per month in the out- and in-patient facilities. Through our outreach free clinics, we continued to serve people who have no coverage of medical care and have financial difficulties in accessing it. We specifically extend our services to those who were direct targets of Israeli brutality from incursions and attacks in Bethanoon, Elshoka, Rafah, Beit Lahia and Khanyouniss.”

Coughlin has called for greater financial support and for prayer from Episcopalians. “We have our AFEDJ Sunday on Dec. 10th, the second Sunday of Advent. We ask that in all Episcopal churches we pray for peace in Jerusalem and for the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.”