Rehabilitation of children from Gaza
President of the Republic of Slovenia Dr. Danilo Türk visited Ramallah on 30 January 2009 and met with President Mahmud Abbas, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other Palestinian leaders where they discussed on humanitarian needs in Gaza and the possibilities of Slovenia to provide meaningful and focused humanitarian assistance. Upon the initiative of President of Slovenia for humanitarian assistance to Gaza, International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF) together with Institute for Rehabilitation of the Republic of Slovenia (IRRS) and some other non-governmental organization prepared possible projects for this purpose, that included clearance of unexploded remnants of war, technical assistance in battle area clearance as well as physical and mental rehabilitation and capacity building for the experts in the field of rehabilitation.
Following the decision of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, the Ministry of Health, which is one of the founding ministries to the ITF, donated 146,000.00 EUR for the project of rehabilitation of children from Gaza. Based on the initiative of President of the Republic of Slovenia and the longstanding cooperation with the ITF, United States of America donated 140,434.41 USD and South Korea donated 20,000.00 USD in support for implementation of project of rehabilitation of children in Gaza. Interest to support the project was also indicated by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and many private donors from Slovenia, with whom ITF continues to talk.
On April 2009, Goran Ga?nik and Iztok Ho?evar from ITF and Robert Cugelj and Ph.D. Hermina Damjan from IRRS paid a visit to Gaza, during which they executed a triage and conducted meetings with representatives of local rehabilitation centres and societies helping people with disabilities. From the list of 42 children they selected 21 children for the first group that most urgently needed rehabilitation, which was consequently conducted in June 2009 in Slovenia at the IRRS.
Based on good cooperation with Palestinian Authority, the initial problems regarding the acquisition of passports and medical records, were successfully solved by Slovenian Embassy in Tel Aviv (VTA), Slovenian Representation Office in Ramallah (PPRSR) and local ITF coordinator in Gaza Jabar El Masry, Slovenian Office of the President of Republic of Slovenia arranged free air transport of the first group (21 children and their companions) which arrived in Slovenia on 9 June 2009.
They stayed at the IRRS in Ljubljana until 30 June 2009, when the complex rehabilitation of first group was successfully finished (see attached IRRS Technical Report of rehabilitation program). On 01 July 2009, the first group of children successfully returned to Gaza. They were in very good mood, full of positive experiences and their health status has visibly improved.
ITF is planning to organize rehabilitation of at least one more group of 10 children from Gaza. First new group is planned to come to the IRRS around 15 October 2009. Together with first new group of children also two physiotherapists will come along and participate in training and education program at the IRRS. In parallel ITF intends to implement a formal university education for orthotic and prosthetic technicians to improve long term rehabilitation services on the ground. Additionally, ITF is also reviewing the possibilities to deliver material and parts for prosthesis production in Gaza, which would in connection with properly trained orthotic/prosthetic technicians, contribute to sustainable treatment of people with disabilities in Gaza. All of this can be implemented if enough funds will be granted. For this purpose ITF will together with Office of the President of the Republic of Slovenia continue with the fundraising to support the project also in the future as well as to support the potential project in the field of psychosocial rehabilitation which will complement the on-going rehabilitation project.
ITF would like to express sincere gratitude to all respected donors, namely: Ministry of Health of the Republic of Slovenia, United States Department of State and Republic of Korea and following project stakeholders, for the successful completion of the phase one of the Rehabilitation of Children from Gaza Project: Office of the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, Embassies of the Republic of Slovenia in Cairo and Tel Aviv, Slovenian Representation Office in Ramallah, Permanent Mission of Slovenia to the United Nations (UN), Institute for Rehabilitation of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Jaber El Masry, Mr. Gunnar Willum, Miss. Karmen Švegl, Office of the President of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian Ministries of Health, Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Israeli Ministries of Defence, Internal Affairs and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt and Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Ljubljana.