Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Lifeline for Qosin-On the "Road" with the UPMRC Mobile Clinic

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Lifeline for Qosin-On the "Road" with the UPMRC Mobile Clinic

Article excerpt

Destruction and barriers, the biggest and deepest holes in the torn-up road I have yet seen: this is the Beit Iba roadblock, which the Israelis call a "checkpoint"-what misuse of a word! No words can convey the situation here-we are in acres of mud amid long lines of waiting people who have to carry all their shopping, baggage, children, and babes-in-arms for hours at a stretch. There is no possibility of putting them down in the deep mud and water. It is bitingly cold and damp. When the line reaches a pool of water, people are ordered to stand there for hours and are not "permitted" to avoid it-it is an outrage against all humanity.

We are trying to get from Nablus to the village of Qosin with the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) Mobile Clinic. Our doctor tells me that "it is very difficult indeed without internationals because Qosin is a 'closed' village. All its roads are blocked and there is never any possibility of coming out or going in."

We wait one hour to be allowed to pass (we will be longer on the way back). A deep, fast-flowing stream runs across the road to the village by the checkpoint. These overflows of water are everywhere because of the way the Israelis just bulldoze huge heaps of rubble and earth, creating lakes in heavy rain which eventually overflow. We climb to the top of a mountain road which has stunning panoramic views-and as we approach the village we see that all the large houses on the outskirts have been destroyed. In the driveway of one ruined house a tank is parked, in another an armored personnel carrier. The Israelis use these houses as tank parks so that they can descend onto the village at a moment's notice and wreak havoc on the population. From the mountaintop, we also see people carrying huge loads on tiny donkeys-animal and owner suffering together. Fresh graves ring the cemetery.

The Clinic is held in a new building, the gift of an international donor. Not yet finished, it has no proper facilities for sick people to see the doctors-it's very cold, with no heating and no equipment of any sort. An amazing number of people come, however. They are so pleased to see the UPMRC staff, who are their lifeline. In this village there no longer is any possibility of employment, and people tell me that they all help to support each other in every way-but, they wonder, for how long?

Everything here is cold, except the welcome! It is, as usual, so warm and full of affection. To the clinic come mothers with tiny, often underweight, babies. The food they are able to get now is not adequate for growing children, they say-it is restricted, and they do not have any dairy products or fresh fruit and vegetables. This is a Palestinian village, I remind you, in which live Palestinian people in their own land of Palestine, yet they are not permitted to buy the essential food their children need-so the next generation will have very many health problems. Teeth here are almost universally in extremely poor condition. An American friend asked me why we didn't take fresh produce in the ambulance-we should be able to, of course. But this area is closed, and the vehicle will be confiscated if any item (even a warm blanket or a personal photograph) not pertaining to an ambulance is found.

The doctors must examine these babies in icy rooms on the cold surface of melamine-topped tables, and their stethoscopes are very cold indeed! Many patients arrive: old women bent double over walking sticks, children with no socks. A chill wind howls in around the windows. Everyone wants to talk, and everyone has a story of Israeli brutality and inhumanity. The manifestation of Palestinian pride in their nation is evident everywhere-there are flags, plaques, carvings, and pictures of Palestine as it was. The mothers are lovely-like young moms anywhere. They wear high-heeled boots, well-cut pants and elegant coats. But the signs of strain are there on every woman's face. Still, everyone says to me, "Welcome, you are welcome in our land. …

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