May 12, 2021

3rd Medical Food Shipment, this time for PKU Babies in Gaza

A PKU child w/ the latest shipment of Type II food
A PKU child w/ the latest shipment of Type II food

In this time of emergency in Gaza, I want to tell you that thanks to your support and a matching grant from OneDaysWages.org, we delivered a 2nd shipment of vital medical food to PKU children 3 years old and up in Gaza, with also made a small delivery to PKU children in the West Bank. Your donations purchased 860 cans for Gaza and 140 cans for the West Bank. Thank you!

We chose children over 3 years old because we understood that the PA Ministry of Health and Palestine Children's Relief Fund (PCRF) were guaranteeing medical food for babies 0-36 months. To our horror, just as we were making our 2nd shipment of medical food deliveries in February, we learned that the parents of PKU babies were being turned away because there was no Type 1 medical food available in Gaza at all.  

We wrote and called the PA Ministry of Health who did not reply.  A volunteer on our team, Dr. Kimberly, wrote an urgent message to PCRF.  They promised to address this and explained that procurement would take a long time. 

"If the babies don't get their medical food, they suffer irreversible brain damage.  That's why Rebuilding Alliance took all the funds accruing for this project and sent our own emergency shipment of Mead Johnson Type 1 medical food which just arrived on Sunday, May 9th, 2021. The medical distributor was so dismayed by this crisis that they gave us a deep discount." — Donna Baranski-Walker, Exec.Dir. Rebuilding Alliance 

WeI know our NGO partner, Youth Vision Society, will do their best to deliver — this is a huge challenge now, with the bombing of Gaza that's currently underway. Thankfully the shipment arrived before the borders were closed. 
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Every Sunday from the time we started this project, Rebuilding Alliance staff and an international volunteer team meet to tackle the crisis of medical food for Palestine's PKU children and the related crisis: the lack of newborn screening for metabolic conditions including Phenylketonuria (PKU).

About newborn screening, we've learned that the immediate is resolved, the backlog is being cleared and the Ministry of Health lab in Gaza will have enough test kits to screen 6000 babies a month, through August 2021 at which time testing will stop. Rebuilding Alliance is hoping to apply for a Rotary Global Grant to provide an automated testing machine but this may be a long shot as the only metabolic testing lab in Gaza is a Gaza government lab and we as Americans are not allowed to provide material aid to that government. This will require careful diplomatic intervention.

To fully understand the depth of the problems faced by PKU families, Rebuilding Alliance created a comprehensive questionnaire in Arabic and English for parents and guardians of PKU children. The 36 questions range from: age of diagnosis, availability of medical food, the amount of medical care children are receiving (if any), history of PKU in the family, and more.  More than 130 responses have already been collected from Gaza families, and the questionnaire will go to those in the West Bank next. When the PA Ministry of Health stopped delivering medical food in 2017, most of the families could not afford buy it on their own. As a result the chlidren suffered immensely and four died. 

Recently Youth Vision Society held a small workshop led by nutritionists for a small group of parents. The nutritionists taught them about the proper diet for PKU children. Parents and guardians were enthusiastic about the workshop and are eager to attend more. Dr. Nadirah from Al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, a specialist on Rebuilding Alliance's team, hopes to train nurses, nutritionists, and other medical professionals so they can provide expert advice to PKU families. Dr. Nadirah is the Consultant Clinical Geneticist and Consultant Clinical Biochemical Geneticist at Al-Makassed Hospital- Jerusalem, Caritas Baby Hospital- Bethlehem and the Specialized Pediatric Medical Center Ramallah. 

If you've read all the way to the end of this report, you can see that the path forward is daunting. However, PKU children deserve to lead full, healthy lives and they are extremely lucky to have your support, and so are we, because you make our work possible. Thank you so much!  

Deliveries in progress
Deliveries in progress
Nutritionists from the PKU workshop
Nutritionists from the PKU workshop

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May 7, 2021

Mrs. Najah's Kitchen helps families break fasts

Imagine cooking delicious food and delivering it to hundreds of people, all while fasting. This is what Mrs. Najah and her staff at the Women Programs Center Rafah has been doing throughout the month of Ramadan. They prepared and delivered meals for 1800 families across many neighborhoods in Rafah: Oriba, Al-Hashash area, Al-Shaboura Refugee Camp, Morag, and Al-Ezba.

Mrs. Najah's Kitchen usually delivers in the afternoon. However, because families were fasting for Ramadan, she and her team scheduled their deliveries later in the day so families can break their fasts with the Kitchen's hot meals.

Mrs. Najah’s Kitchen focuses on widows and divorcées with no source of income. In addition, Women Programs Center Rafah teamed up with other local organizations to deliver to families with disabilities, cancer patients, and orphan children under the care of other family members.

When she received her meal, one woman said: “I swear I’ve not started cooking yet for Iftar. I was confused what to cook because I don’t have anything in the kitchen. This was sent to us by God. Thank you!”

Some of the beneficiaries also praised the quality of the food: 

“What a delicious meal! I can’t remember that I’ve had a meal like this my entire life “.

“Honestly, it’s my first time tasting as good as this hot cooked meal. You cooked an amazing meal, and it made our day because my wife didn’t have anything to cook for Iftar. We were lucky because of your visit. God bless you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

As Gaza's COVID cases rise again, it's important for families with no or little income source to have food deliveries they can rely on. We hope you will continue to support Mrs. Najah's Kitchen so we can deliver food to more families more often. A simple meal of chicken and rice provides not just sustenance but lets vulnerable families know that they aren't abandoned during this difficult time. 

Apr 8, 2021

With COVID raging, test kits for hospitals and food parcels for families

Last year's Ramadan food box
Last year's Ramadan food box

As the COVID-19 crisis continues in the West Bank and Gaza goes into lockdown again, the importance of both medical relief and food for families is re-emphasized. In the Gaza Strip, cases are rising, and the British variant of the virus has been reported. At our weekly staff meeting that includes our coordinators in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank described what they're experiencing. One of our coordinators is a teacher in a Gaza school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. She said that all schools and non-essential businesses are closed, hospitals are full, and public transportation is shut down. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, she feels scared. With your donations, we are in the process of sending test kits to our NGO hospital partners and delivering food to families at home in time for Ramadan.

I am delighted to tell you the groceries that will fill the boxes for 600 families are being delivered to our partners this week.  In previous years, because of funds not coming in early enough, the partners scrambled to deliver boxes for Eid, which is the celebration that takes place at the end of Ramadan. However, your donations during the Little by Little campaign this past March helped us prepare much sooner. Thank you! 

A food box will have a 2 week supply of food and a box of face masks costing about $65 total. One of our partners, Al Amal Society, is encouraging us to adopt a new process to find vendors. They put an ad in the newspaper calling for vendors to submit bids. The ad also informs the local community of the Ramadan food delivery. By doing this, the community becomes aware of the good work of Rebuilding Alliance and their partners, and Al Amal receives competitive quotes for high-quality food. A win-win!

As for our two NGO hospital partners, Ahli Arab Hospital and Al Awda Hospital, Rebuilding Alliance is purchasing 3,000 rapid antigen test kits from the American company, Innova, thanks in part to an unrestricted $15,000 COVID Relief grant won from GlobalGiving. As we establish our track record and more donors give, we will also be able to provide test kits to a third NGO hospital partner in the South, Al Kuwaiti Hospital. As part of the process to deliver the kits to hospitals, Rebuilding Alliance has applied to obtain a donation waiver from both Israeli and Palestinian governments to avoid an 18% customs fee. As far as we can tell, the rapid antigen test kits that we're buying are a dollar less per unit than what others are paying. Also, we're in talks with a German company that tentatively offered to donate 900 tests kits after getting approval from their management.

You likely share our concern about Israel's decision not to provide the vaccine to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. We hope to present a panel at the RightsCon International Summit: Creating a Shared Response COVID-19 Coalition. Mutually Assured Survival demands inclusive, coordinated, and responsive vaccine distribution and more. Drawing upon the COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force in the U.S., we explore how Israel and Palestine can work together in a Shared Response to COVID-19 Coalition to address urgent, tangible, inter-related issues (e.g., testing, PPE, ventilation) to assure safety and survival.

We look forward to sending you photos of the food boxes and test kits soon. Ramadan Kareem to those who celebrate. We're so grateful to all of you for caring about Palestinian families' health and well-being. We're honored to realize those intentions.

Contents of this year's box-food & a box of masks
Contents of this year's box-food & a box of masks
Partners packing the boxes last year
Partners packing the boxes last year

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