28 March 2007

Doctors learn a lot from their colleagues in Gaza

The seven physicians and surgeons entered the Gaza strip 19 March. The Dove and Dolphin International Medical Centre was opened the next day and a cake with the words and symbols encrusted on it, was cut.

Then followed 6 intense days of learning, teaching and acts of brotherhood. We learned of the rigid barriers to the movement of doctors so that their under and post-graduate education was sparse. It was usual to find laboratory and renal dialysis machines put aside for want of parts or standard solutions. A senior in a medical equipment firm explained the unsurmountable problems, all of which breach international and moral law.

Armed police accompanied us fore and aft because of the despicable kidnapping of the BBC journalist. This need for 'security' confined us but not our spirits.

The medical group, and Dr Khamis Elessi our host and co-worker, met Prime Minister Haniyeh for 30 minutes. He listened carefully and very graciously to our observations. All liked the 'cut of his jib'. As we emerged we faced a gaggle of TV cameras. The writer spoke of our mission and made a strong plea for the release of Alan Johnston - immediately.

The group left through Erez 26 March but with oppressive delay. We stay in East Jerusalem until Sunday 1 April. A meeting with Rita Giacman - Prof of Community and Public Health in the University of Birzeit (husband - Dr Mustafa Barghouti) has been arranged for this pm in Ramallah. On 1 April, and before we fly home, we will be meeting Physicians for Human Rights - Israel. Other meetings at hospitals, with medical students and with other people who embrace reason are being arranged.

We are pleased to know that the Arab press has covered our mission very well.

David Halpin FRCS 079 805 88525 Seven Arches Hotel 00972 (02) 6267777
Distribute through Mary Nazzal 07980 1748629 and Michael Halpin 0044 1722 320694. Also on www.doveanddolphin.co.uk