Help is on the Way: The story of lifesaving home delivery of medication in Gaza

24 November 2020
Amal Abu-Musa, a practical nurse in UNRWA Khan Yunis Health Centre, prepares medication for home delivery to Palestine refugees in Gaza. © 2020 UNRWA Photo by Khalil Adwan

Amal Abu-Musa is an accomplished practical nurse at UNRWA Khan Yunis Health Centre. When a COVID-19 lockdown was put in place in the Gaza Strip on 24 August, Amal and her colleagues at the health centre activated their emergency plan. “Usually, I meet with 30 patients with non-communicable diseases (NCD) per day. However, during the lockdown, patients could not come to the health centre and we only fielded urgent visits from patients who required daily doses of insulin, cardiac and anti-hypertensive medications,” she said.  These services are made possible thanks to the generous support of King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSrelief).

As soon as the next morning the team were at the health centre, preparing medication packages for home delivery. We were very careful not to let our patients feel that the lockdown might pose a danger on their health or might cause a delay in delivering their medicine,” Amal added.

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and to reduce the possibility of transmission in the community, UNRWA initiated home-delivery of vital, life-saving medicines to its Palestine refugee patients across the Gaza Strip. This initiative aimed to provide NCD patients with their medicine for an extended three-month period. Amal was a member of the family health team, consisting of consisting of two doctors, two practical nurses, and a midwife “The medical team and I were working hard to deliver medication to our patients and to advise them on how to protect themselves. My colleagues and I sometimes got emotional, seeing the difficult conditions of some patients,” she said.

Being a Palestine refugee herself who an UNRWA nurse since 2008, Amal has strong bonds with her patients. “During the lockdown, I learnt that one of my type A diabetic patient will run out of insulin on a specific day. The patient is five years-old and lives in one of the red zones, where a sizable number of cases where detected, in Khan Yunis. I prepared her medicine package for the coming three months and dialed her mother’s number to check their exact address. Unfortunately, the phone number was out of service. Knowing her life might be in danger if she didn’t take her insulin dose on time, I tried to call her relatives and neighbors. Finally, I managed to get her address. It turned out that she lived in a rural area that was difficult to reach. However, the medical staff did our best to reach her. So, we went to her home and when her mother opened the door, she cried! Her daughter’s stock of insulin was dangerously low. Much to her surprise, we had brought the medicine to her! It was a very emotional moment. For us, as health staff, it’s rewarding to intervene, particularly those who cannot afford medication. We’re grateful for this generous donation, it helps us continue providing Palestine refugees with essential health services,” Amal concluded.

Lubna Zeyada, Sama’s mother, shared, “When my baby was two years, I noticed that she wasn’t okay. I went to an UNRWA health centre and our family doctor conducted some lab tests. It turned out that Sama is a Type 1 diabetic.”

Shocked and unaware of lifestyle that the diabetic patients should follow, especially for children, Lubna found the support she needed at the local UNRWA health centre. “I received psychological support that helped me recover from the shock I experience from this news. Also, the medical team provided me with the information I needed to adapt our lifestyle to my daughter’s new needs,” Lubna added.

During the lockdown, Lubna’s main concern was that Sama’s insulin would run out. “I cried when I gave her the last dose of insulin we had. I don’t know how the UNRWA medical team found us! It was a surprise when I opened the door and found them there with the medicine. It was the same nurse and doctor who treat Sama at the Health Centre at my door! They also explained protective measures for Sama from the pandemic. I’m very grateful to everyone, everywhere, who are involved in facilitating and supporting UNRWA health services,” added Lubna.

The King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSrelief) is a generous donor to UNRWA. The Center have contributed US$ 1.5 million to the Agency to provide vital health care services in Gaza. This essential contribution from KSrelief will enhance the delivery of health care to more than 1.5 million refugees in Gaza at the local hospitals and clinics, facilitate mammography for some 5,000 women and cover the costs of diagnostic and medical procedures related to early detection of breast cancer. Additionally, it will support the provision of life-saving medicines for 23,000 Palestine refugee patients, facilitate medical screening for 35,000 UNRWA students and provide training for 700 health workers.