The Guardian August 28, 2002


Appeal: Outbreak of hepatitis in Palestine

I am writing in appeal for international assistance in what could be a 
dire humanitarian crisis. The residents of Salem, a village near Nablus in 
the West Bank, are facing a severe outbreak of hepatitis A. According to Dr 
Ghassan Hamdan of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees in 
Nablus, there have been 95 confirmed cases in this village since the 
outbreak first began two weeks ago.

Additionally, there are nine confirmed cases in Iraq Bureen, a nearby 
community, and other unconfirmed reports of further infections in 
neighboring villages. Thus far, all 104 confirmed infections have been 
children.

Dr Hamdan asserts that recent damage to the village's infrastructure is the 
most likely cause of the problem. Israeli military forces, while using 
bulldozers to place a roadblock on the main access road to Salem, have 
broken open sewage lines, possibly contaminating the area's water supply.

Another example of infrastructure damage is the dumping of garbage from 
nearby Israeli settlements in areas where villagers grow their food. 
Additionally, 58 consecutive days of curfew in the Nablus area have led to 
poor overall sanitary conditions, malnutrition, and lack of access to 
medical care, greatly exacerbating the situation.

Due to lack of funding, the Medical Relief in Palestine is unable to 
provide the necessary vaccinations for the village's residents. Dr Hamdan 
warns that, while the prognosis for hepatitis infections among children is 
generally positive, if the epidemic continues it may spread to infants and 
to the elderly, with potentially devastating effects. Therefore, the need 
for help in this situation is urgent.

The major needs in this crisis are funding for the vaccine and assistance 
with transporting the medication to the Nablus area. The Israeli siege 
which restricts Palestinian movement, both within and between Palestinian 
towns, makes it almost impossible for local Palestinians to transport 
medical supplies and move in other emergency cases.

We believe that the direct intervention of international aid organisations 
is crucial in addressing humanitarian crises in the Occupied Palestinian 
Territories. Our teams of international volunteers and activists, along 
with our Palestinian partners, will continue to work around the siege to 
provide aid to those in need. Please consider helping us.

Any organisation or individual wishing to help with this crisis should 
contact the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Organizations in Nablus at 
++9-238-7174. You can also contact Susan Barclay in Nablus at ++59-877-091 
or ++55-829-680.

Thank you very much for your attention in this matter.

Adam Stumacher
Volunteer
International Solidarity Movement

* * *
Appeal received through the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom

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