Wounded children, cancer patients evacuated from Gaza on flying hospital


(EL ARISH, Egypt) — Those who were too weak to walk boarded the plane in wheelchairs and stretchers. Some had already been receiving treatment in Egypt; others arrived straight from Rafah, the southern Gaza town bordering Egypt.

“I was at the sea, it was meant to be a safe area. We got hit with four rockets and I got injured, and my grandma was martyred,” said 13-year-old Yara, who now is being fed by a tube after being severely wounded in the stomach.

Yara was one of about 100 patients being evacuated aboard an Emirati flight to Abu Dhabi to receive additional care, the 13th mission of its kind. The round-trip flight takes off from Abu Dhabi and flies to El Arish, Egypt, where it collects the wounded.

Medics described the operation as a “flying hospital” — beds were set up at the back of the plane, along with IV drips, ventilators, and defibrillators, and any other equipment doctors might need to take care of patients in-flight.

Priority for evacuations to the United Arab Emirates has been given to kids and adult cancer patients.

A few feet from Yara was 9-year-old Yazan, whose back was pierced by shrapnel. His injury required surgery and several amputations.

“I was playing with my sister, our house was shelled, she was martyred,” said Yazan.

Five-year-old Siraj lost his right leg, both of his parents and two of his siblings in a single strike.

“He wishes to walk again, like the other children,” said his grandmother, Taghred Majdi. “I hope he gets a prosthetic.”

In addition to burn and amputations, doctors on the flight said of the big issues they’ve been seeing lately is malnutrition; kids having lost weight, with iron deficiencies, taking longer to heal because they’re not getting the right nutrients, according to Dr. Jehad Awad, one of the doctors treating Yara, Yazen, and Siraj.

“I find they suffer a lot of malnutrition,” Awad said. ” They’re weak, they didn’t have the right food, the right medication.”

Earlier this week, Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) warned famine in Gaza is “imminent,” with the United Nations saying one in three children under the age of 2 in the northern part of the Strip is already “acutely malnourished.”

“There is no food, no water,” said Yara. “My baby sister, we cannot get her diapers or milk, everything has become very expensive, and that is if we are even able to find it.”

But Yara put on a brave face. Though she still has a long road to recovery ahead, she says she’s hopeful she’ll get better now. She dreams of becoming a reporter someday, “to tell the story of Gaza,” or a pediatrician, to help others like she’s being helped now, she said.

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