The World Health Organisation issued its monthly report entitled “Health Access Barriers for Patients in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, in which the organisation highlighted the case of ALRAY Media Agency’s photographer, Attia Darwish, who was seriously injured a month ago.
WHO said, in its report, which comes in three parts, that a tear gas canister hit Darwish, a 31-year-old photojournalist, in his face, under his left eye, when he was covering demonstrations near the Gaza fence.
“I was taking photos when my phone rang, and I tried to take the call. Suddenly, I felt a blow to my face and fell down,” Attia said, according to Al Ray.
The ambulance picked him up within minutes and took him to a trauma stabilization point close to the fence. After initial assessment and first aid, Attia was rushed to Shifa hospital, in Gaza, for treatment. He had multiple facial fractures and severe bleeding at the back of his eye, putting his sight at risk, the report said.
WHO said that Darwish had surgery to remove shrapnel from the wound, fix his lower jaw and replace fragmented bones in his face with metal plates. He also received initial treatment for his eye injury, but needed review and specialist care outside of Gaza.
“As a photographer, I depend on my eyes to do my job. Now, I can hardly see with my left eye. Getting proper treatment is something critical for me,” Attia said. He subsequently received a medical referral, from the Palestinian Ministry of Health, to go for an appointment to St John’s Eye Hospital, in Jerusalem.
He applied to Israeli authorities for a permit to exit Gaza, for treatment, but, when the date of his hospital appointment came, his permit application was still under review. Attia despaired of getting a permit to exit Gaza, via Erez crossing with Israel, and asked the Services Purchasing Unit in the Ministry of Health to refer him, instead, for treatment in Egypt, WHO recounted.
On the day of his travel, however, Rafah crossing point to Egypt was closed for exit. “I cannot feel the left side of my face. I can only eat soft food and I’m suffering with the pain. The cold weather makes it even worse. When I was in hospital, one of the doctors said I either need a bone graft or an artificial implant. But, neither of those is available in Gaza,” he said, according to the report.
WHO said that when they spoke with Attia, he still had not received his permit to leave Gaza to Jerusalem, stressing that “his case is not an exception.”
The orgnisation pointed out that of 435 permit applications to Israeli authorities by those injured during the Great March of Return demonstrations, only 19% have been approved, where those unable to access the health care they need face a higher risk of complications and poorer health outcomes.