- By Adam Whittock, Palestine Monitor
Lian Barhoum is originally from Gaza but left the coastal enclave when she was just 8 months old, in order to receive medical treatment in Haifa.
Today she is just over one years old, weighs 9 kilograms and goes through four hours of intensive treatment every day at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Centre.
She suffers from a lack of the enzyme ‘oxalate’ in her liver, which if left untreated, will systematically destroy all the organs in her body. It has already caused kidney problems, most notably kidney stones, and will target her eyesight next.
Her only hope of survival is a liver and kidney transplant, with a specially trained doctor from Belgium that would cost in the region of $500,000. Neither the Ministries of Health from the Palestinian Authority, nor the Israeli government, will fund her treatment.
They both state, using various dictums, that they cannot afford the treatment for only one person, and her current treatment in Haifa is using more than enough money in a country that she does not hold citizenship. This is of course not forgetting that Israel effectively occupies Gaza and spends millions of shekels every year on maintaining its occupation of the small enclave.
During a routine child’s medical check-up in Gaza her parents were told something was wrong with Lian’s liver. It was only after several other check-ups that doctors recognised the seriousness of her situation.
Her journey from Gaza to Haifa was not easy. As her mother, Maysa Barhoum, explains, “Israel didn’t really have a problem with her coming, but we still had to fill out lots of permission forms. It took so long, weeks.”
Lian’s father, Khalid Barhoum, was not allowed to travel with them due to age restrictions put on male Gazans entering Israel. It was only after Maysa suffered stress and anxiety trauma and sought medical attention herself that Khalid was given permission to travel and stay in Haifa hospital with them.
He has only been reunited with them in the past two weeks, having spent over seven months away from them.
Maysa does not work, and Khalid can no longer tend to his farm Gaza. They live in the hospital, as the Israeli authorities do not permit them the freedom to stay anywhere else.
Grassroots fundraising efforts
Fortunately, there is hope for Lian. A small but dedicated group of individuals have taken time away from their jobs and studies to start a fundraising campaign. Lead by Palestinian actor Ayman Nahas, the group have so far raised $10,000 in the first two weeks of fundraising.
In a meeting the group explained “they [the doctors] will not start anything until we have $125,000 before April. But ultimately we need to raise $500,000 to save her.”
A group of Palestinian students from the Haifa Institute of Technology (Technion) started a Facebook group two weeks ago to explain Lian’s story and hopefully gain some support for her. Currently, they have 2,000 donors and have raised over $10,000.
“We never realised it would get so big, people really care. Firstly we have people from our university, then universities over Israel and Palestine, and now internationals are contacting us” stated Ronza Najjar, one of the students of the Institute of Technology involved in advocating Lian’s situation.The doctors will not start anything until we have $125,000 before April. But ultimately we need to raise $500,000 to save her
There are plans to create a bank account to make the transaction of funds easier. As yet however, no bank is permitting them to have money coming into the account without disclosure. Every charity organisation they have asked states that half a million dollars exceeds their bank account limit. Regardless of these restrictions, the team is pressing ahead with plans to raise the money.
Mr. Nahas organised an entertainment evening in central Haifa consisting of a series of comedic, theatrical and musical displays.
During a meeting he stated clearly that “more fundraising events will follow.”
“We are so thankful,” Maysa stated regarding the fundraising effort, “very thankful. This has given us more hope. We have hope that only the better is going to happen.”
Lian’s case follows countless other situations in which children from Gaza and the West Bank have struggled to raise funds for a life-saving operation. The Palestine Monitor urges its readers to help in the fundraising effort to save Lian Barhoum.
The Facebook page run by the students from Haifa, provides contacts, ways to donate, and up-to-date information regarding Lian’s situation.