After six long years working through endless details, I am so pleased to tell you that our Birthing Equipment made it through Israel’s Customs and is now in the care of the Rotary Club of Ramallah!
“This makes me incredibly happy,” said Al Aqaba’s Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq, on hearing this good news. “I remember our meeting with Rotarian Sophia Omar in Palo Alto in 2008 when I learned about her successful effort to open a 2 room clinic in Afghanistan that is now the biggest hospital in Afghanistan." So exciting to see inspiration become reality.
Dr. Jamil Daragmeh, the Deputy Minister of Health in Tubas, has hired three women doctors who are ready for ultrasound equipment training at the new Birthing Center in the West Bank Jordan Valley town of Ein Al Beida. In addition to the Birthing Center, the project also includes the Prenatal Clinic in Al Aqaba. This is a part-time clinic and the Palestinian Ministry of Health is giving Al Aqaba the ability to invite visiting staff in addition to training the part-time staff on site.
The distinguished training team includes Palestinian-American doctors who will be flying-in all the way from the country of Chile. Assist International, our partner in this project, has connected with a distinguished team of doctors and sonographers from Chile — they are standing by to fly to Palestine and begin training.
“I sincerely appreciate the generous donations of everyone who made this dream happen: the Rotary Clubs who provided grants for the Birthing Center equipment and all the Rebuilding Alliance donors who helped provide additional equipment for Al Aqaba’s Prenatal clinic and for the costs of training,” said Mayor Haj Sami. “Al Aqaba’s people have had no one to give them these basic health services — this prenatal clinic will help save lives!”
Now here is a question for you, Gentle Donor. Would you like to tour the Holy Land to join in the opening ceremonies at the Birthing Center and the Prenatal Clinic? We’ll be hosted by the Rotary Club of Ramallah and the Rotary Club of Nazareth and the visit will include the festivities at our clinics in the Jordan Valley and also tours of Ramallah, Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. I'll have tentative dates read soon — Please send me email or give me a call at 650 325-4663 if you would like to join us.
Thank you again for making this project possible.
I have good news: this month, a delegation from Circle of Health International will be visiting Al Aqaba’s Al Amal (Hope) Clinic and also the new clinic in Ein Al Beida. Circle of Health International is a U.S. NGO dedicated to working with women and their communities in times of crisis and disaster to ensure access to quality reproductive, maternal, and newborn care. They provide volunteers to give clinical and technical support on site in the field, supporting local clinicians without taking over their work.
This delegation is a team of 4 people (3 women and one man) who will stay in Al Aqaba Village on Nov 18 - Nov. 22, then return again Nov. 26 - Dec. 1. One delegate, Certified Nurse Midwife Ms. Simone Lance, will remain to volunteer through the end of the year. They would like to assist at the Al Aqaba Clinic, at the new Emergency Care Center in Ein Al Beida, and anywhere in the area where they are needed. They are ready to provide workshops on a diverse range of birth, prenatal and postpartum topics, and would like to provide hands-on care as well.
Meanwhile, our project is moving forward step by step as we get ready to ship the medical equipment. Upon our return from our successful visit with the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Sophia Omar and I met with Assist International to get the equipment ready for shipment. Assist International revised the equipment list to comply with the request by the Ministry of Health for equipment brands with local tech support. You may remember that Rebuilding Alliance’s project is in parallel to Rotary International matching grant for the Birthing Center equipment so we are submitting the revised list of equipment to Rotary International for their approval. As soon as RI approves, funds will be transferred and Assist International will ship the equipment.
Thank you again for your support of this important project. We’re getting close now. We think the equipment will arrive in February and we will schedule the trainers to arrive soon after. I look forward to sending you an invitation to join us for a 10 day tour in February or March to include our birthing center and clinic, and visits to the Rotary Clubs of Ramallah and of Nazareth and some wonderful site seeing!
As always, please feel free to call us with questions or suggestions at 650 325-4663.
Hello Project Donors,
Thank you again for your support. My colleague and mentor Sophia Omar and I are here in the West Bank to work through the details of this project so that it will move forward at last. Although the Rotary grant combined with your GlobalGiving donations provides for equipment and training, so far we’ve not had a commitment for staffing. Sophia and I are here to get the staffing allocation or develop a Plan B for private staffing.
On Sunday, Dr. Allam Jarar of the Palestinian Union of Medical Relief Societies (we asked his intervention when the Palestinian Government failed to respond to our requests by mail and phone) introduced us to Dr. Mahmoun, the Director of the Ministry of Health for the Tubas Governorate. They took us to visit a new clinic and emergency room building constructed by the Japanese government in the village of Ein Al Beida, about 25 minutes north of Al Aqaba, also in Area C Jordan Valley. We also visited the clinic in nearby Tayaseer in addition to visiting the clinic in Al Aqaba Village earlier in the week.
They propose citing our Birthing Center in the new Ein Al Beida Clinic instead of Al Aqaba Clinic and there are a number of good reasons for this:
Meanwhile, all agree that Al Aqaba Clinic will be a good place for prenatal appointments and are offering medical staffing there 2 days per week, but just 3 hours per day. In addition, they are willing to contract with NGO’s to provide yoga and birthing classes, and various other Mother Child Education classes in Al Aqaba, rounding out the prenatal care program to 4-5 days per week.
Next step: a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Health in Ramallah, hopefully this Thursday. Overall impression: favorable. My concern: When I said we'll bring the training team in October, Dr. Mahmoun said this is too soon. Does the Ministry of Health have the budget needed to make their big commitment to staffing in Ein Al Beida's new clinic? When will they actually open the new clinic and emergency health center?
We’re here in Palestine and Israel through Aug. 29th, and we're determined to return home with a clear commitment for staffing, a clear schedule for opening both the Birthing Center in Ein Al Beida and the Prenatal Clinic in Al Aqaba, and a good sense of how we will get the equipment in. I'll get back to you in two weeks with an update.
P.S. On Tuesday, we’re speaking at the Rotary Club of Nazareth, a sponsor of the Birthing Center. Sophia and I are invited to talk about our work in the West Bank and also Sophia’s remarkable hospital (now the largest in all Afghanistan!) in Kabul. They would also like to have our two clubs develop a Rotary project “to benefit of our medical institutions here in Nazareth that give their services to about a quarter of a million people, Jews, Christians and Moslems that live in Nazareth and the surrounding cities and villages.” We continue to draw upon their insight and expertise!
Thank you again for your support. Your donation makes it possible for Rebuilding Alliance to bring together a remarkable team to do something that no one could do alone: install a birthing center that will serve a population of 50,000 people in the northern part of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley.
I am writing to say that our birthing center implementation plans are stalled as we resolve two hurdles. Please know that our team is usually quite good at resolving big and small hurdles. Ok, here's what's happening:
1. The "refurbished equipment" challenge: The equipment that Assist International is sending for the Birthing Center is refurbished equipment and whether it arrives first through the Amman airport or first through the Ben Gurion Airport, it must go through Israeli customs before entry is allowed into the West Bank. From what we are hearing, Israeli Customs does not allow entry of any refurbished medical equipment. The NGO with lots of experience whom we asked for help declined to assist us, saying that it is a BIG challenge to get special approval.
Now for the hopeful next steps:
A. About 8 years ago, Assist International has brought and installed refurbished equipment in the Daniel Pearl Hospital in Israel. They are exploring customs approval via their connections; and
B. There is a shipping approval group affiliated with the King of Jordan who has asked to help facilitate;
2. The personnel challenge: Our birthing center program includes equipment and training but does not include personnel. At the time we wrote the proposal in 2008 (yes, that long ago. A lot of work has gone into this project), Al Aqaba Village anticipated it would be easy for the Ministry of Health to ramp-up personnel at their Al Amal Clinic. Now lack of funds to the Palestinian government (the U.S. Congress stopped U.S. funding as punnishment for their vote for recognition before the U.N., and the Israeli government stopped transfer of taxes collected) means that they have not met payroll for over 4 months. Even the Ministry of Health itself has contracted to working only 1 day per week.
Birthing Centers are usually 24/7 so we must find a grant to fund staff at the Al Amal Clinic. We're in touch with Dr. Moustafa Barghouti's group, the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, to identify staff. Because British Consul originally built the Al Amal Clinic, we will ask the British Consul for a grant to fund Birthing Center personnel.
So, that's where we stand right now. I'll keep you posted as these matter resolve. Thank you again for your support and your patience. This is a project that matters and I look forward to arranging the next steps (scheduling the training visit with the new staff and scheduling a tour for all the donors) as soon as we know how and when we will get the equipment in.
Thank you again for making it possible to realize a dream in the creation of the first Palestinian Birthing Center in Area C, the Jordan River Valley. We're getting closer to project implementation as we work to address three important questions: (1) Customs Approval, (2) Staffing for 24/7 access, and (3) RI Matching Grant paperwork.
Customs Approval: This is especially challenging because we must seek approval from at least 2 and possibly 3 countries, each with their own regulations regarding the import of refurbished medical equipment. Do it wrong and there could be tariffs or huge delays. The Rotary Club of Ramallah have been researching possibilities and meeting with Palestinian ministries seeking advice and waivers of tariffs and taxes. Assist International is in touch with the Israeli Ministry of Trade to confirm that they are providing a waiver of tariffs and taxes as well. While in Washington DC, I met with American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) to learn how they approach challenges like this and received their offer of help too. We're closer now to moving forward.
Staffing Up for Round-the-Clock Care: As you know, babies are born on their own schedule, so round-the-clock staffing will required for our Birthing Clinic. That's the staff we'll be training as part of this project. When we first drafted this proposal with Al Aqaba's Mayor Haj Sami Sadeq, we assumed the Palestinian National Authority would readily provide the staffing needed when the time came. However, sanctions leading up to and following the U.N. vote for recognition of Palestinian statehood, mean that the Palestinian government is unable to pay its current staff and in no position hire new staff. Recently, the director of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, Dr. Allam Jarar and Dr. Ruchama Marton of Physicians for Human Rights — Israel spoke at Stanford University Medical School. I asked both for their help. Next step: I'll soon contact the British Consul General in Jerusalem to ask if British funding is available for staffing, as the British built Al Aqaba's clinic building. If you have an in with the British Foreign Service, please ring me at 1 650 440 9667.
Transfer of the Rotary International Matching Grant Funds: this should be straight-forward once all i's are dotted and t's are crossed. Overall, that approval of the RI Matching grant is just good, significant because some seven Rotary Clubs in the SF Bay Area signed-on to help, along with the Rotary Club of Nazareth Israel and the Rotary Club of Ramallah Palestine.
I want you to know that you are part of a dream that took shape back in 2008. You see the light at the end of the tunnel, and usually only the next two steps ahead are visible. Take those two steps, reach out to all who can help, and the next two steps become clear. Happy Holidays, Happy New Year!
With love and gratitude,