To enjoy life is to be in good health

29 July 2021
Momen (right) and Maram Qishawi (left) are two Palestine refugee children from Gaza who receive health care and insulin pens through support of the King Salman Foundation to the UNRWA health programme. © 2021 UNRWA Photo by Abdalla Hallaq

Momen (16) was three and Maram (10) four years old when they were diagnosed with diabetes.  Their parents had first noticed that something was not right when Momen had to urinate more frequently than normal and took him to the clinic for blood tests. “I was shocked when the blood test confirmed that Momen is diabetic,” recalls his father, Mutaz Qishawi. “There was nothing we could do about this and we accepted our destiny, thanking Allah for all the blessings we have received in our lives.” He added, “All we could do was to adopt a healthier lifestyle, not only Momen, but all of us, to help him manage his new condition.” The father recalls that by the time Maram was also diagnosed with diabetes, the family had already changed their lifestyle and acceptance of the new situation was smoother.

Mutaz Qishawi is a Palestine refugee who lives in Beit Hanoun in the north of Gaza with his family, including four children. Having two diabetic children adds to the extreme difficulties of life in the already challenging environment of the coastal strip, which is characterized by blockade, repeated cycles of violence and high unemployment.  “Being parents to two diabetic children requires you to be cautious about your lifestyle and keep an open eye for details while teaching them to the importance of adopting a healthy lifestyle themselves. It is not easy to convince children to control eating sweets and carbohydrates,” he says.

Fortunately, his children have adapted learned and have learned to live well with their condition. Maram is excellent at school, enjoys drawing and dreams of becoming a doctor. Her brother Momen also feels good about his lifestyle. He exercises with his friends and enjoys healthy food. His condition is not stopping him also from dreaming about his future: “I want to be an IT specialist,” he says.

In order to manage their conditions, Maram and Momen receive periodic medical check-ups and medication for their Type I Diabetes from the UNRWA health centre in their neighbourhood in Beit Hanoun.  They are among 520 Palestine refugee children with diabetes in Gaza registered with 22 UNRWA health centres.  These health-care centres provide basic health-care services to the vast majority of the over 1.2 million Palestine refugees in Gaza. In addition to follow-up care for persons with non-communicable diseases, UNRWA provides clinic and laboratory services, personalized maternal health and family planning, as well as radiology and dental services in select centers.  Furthermore, UNRWA makes available across the Gaza Strip special education needs (SEN) clinics in several of its health centres to help the children, in particular, deal with the anxiety, distress and depression they suffers as a result of the psychological trauma, poverty and environmental degradation they experience on a daily basis. UNRWA also places psychosocial counsellors in several schools to support children dealing with a range of problems, including fear of violence, sleeplessness, lack of motivation in school, or the inability to concentrate.

This support is made possible thanks to a US$ 1.5 million agreement between the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSrelief) and UNRWA to enhance the delivery of health-care services to more than 1.5 million refugees in Gaza through UNRWA health centres.  Provision of critical and life-saving medicines for 23,000 patients, like the insulin required by Momen and Maram, is part of this project and is a huge load off the parents’ shoulders, allowing Maram and Momen to look to the future strong and full of confidence.

“My parents helped me a lot to adopt a healthy lifestyle. I have a life to live, so I need to be in good health and always stay active,” says Momen.

KSrelief was established in 2015 under the high patronage and guidance of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz. KSrelief aims to provide humanitarian aid and relief to those in need outside of the Kingdom’s borders. The Centre has provided humanitarian and development aid to more than 40 countries through international, regional and local partners in place. KSRelief has supported UNRWA across various programmes including health, food assistance and education.