Shipping cancer medications to save lives in Gaza


The Big Give campaign (3-10 December) will double donations to IHP during this time, giving vulnerable people increased access to essential medicines. To donate, visit:

In the UK, a diagnosis can be terrifying, even devastating, but for cancers that are curable, diagnosis can mark the start of a journey back to health – so long as the right treatment is available.

“Anyone who’s waited for a possible diagnosis of cancer knows that the hours of waiting can seem like days, and days like weeks. “

In Gaza, the situation is very different. The country’s few health facilities lack equipment, staff and medicines to treat different cancers. Radiotherapy is non-existent, and even chemotherapy is limited. Cancer accounts for 14% of deaths in the Gaza, and this percentage is rising. People die from potentially treatable cancers and related health issues.

International Health Partners, a London-based charity, is proactive in bridging this gap. It partners with the aid agency Anera to support health facilities including Al Shifa, the only hospital in Gaza with an oncology unit.

In early 2019, Al Shifa ran short of medicines including capecitabine, an oral chemotherapy medication. Susan Sarhan, an outpatient pharmacist, comments: “Our list of medicines in short supply has grown dramatically. Shortages of medication are a serious danger for patients. If treatment is disrupted, it inevitably worsens prognosis.”

Anera asked IHP for help, and IHP made an urgent appeal to UK healthcare companies. Two (Morningside Pharmaceuticals and Janssen) stepped forward. Morningside offered to donate 3,000 packs of capecitabine oral chemotherapy tablets to treat a range of cancers, while Janssen gave bortezomib tablets to treat progressive multiple myeloma.

Altogether, these medicines – shipped out and now in use – are worth nearly £287,500, and fill 30% of Al Shifa’s current oncology needs. They will be provided free of charge to patients, giving more than 150 people with a cancer diagnosis in Gaza access to a full six-month course of medicine.

Aysha’s story: Aysha, 42, has five children. Eight years ago, she felt an unusual lump in her breast. She went to the hospital promptly and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Last year, this spread to her spinal cord. She has had chemotherapy and continues treatment in Gaza, taking capecitabine and trying to retain her health by staying active.

Adele Paterson, IHP’s chief executive, says: “This is a wonderful example of the way we work proactively with our partners to add value. We’re delighted to partner with healthcare companies to coordinate the delivery of essential, high-quality medicines to vulnerable people.”

By donating £10 to IHP, you can make your little go a long way. During the Big Give (3-10 December), we double your gift to £20. We then maximise the value: £10 donated during the Big Give enables us to source donated medicines and supplies worth £200 from our healthcare partners. This will provide about 50 treatments to help people in Gaza. As well as cancer medicines, we provide other vital medication. A £10 donation will pay for nearly 50 vials of heparin sodium, needed to stop blood clotting in a bypass machine. This could enable several people to have lifesaving heart surgery.

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