Canada doctors plan solar power for Gaza hospitals
EmpowerGAZA project approaching goal of $200,000 to power one facility

More than 800 people from 50 different countries have contributed $166,000 as of Thursday toward a project to provide solar power for desperately needed electricity to Gaza Strip hospitals.

Begun in late April, the EmpowerGAZA project is the brainchild of a Canadian doctor who is an emergency physician at the London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario.

Dr. Tarek Loubani, who has worked in Gaza, said power outages were one of the most serious problems to plague physicians as they treat Palestinians in the strip’s four hospitals.

"One of the problems that pervades almost every moment is this possibility that … while I’m doing a procedure, while we have a knife in a patient, while I’m sewing up little boys and girls, the power will cut,” Loubani told the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper.

"It changes our behavior completely. So, for example, you have to rush, which isn’t something you should do in medicine.”

Loubani talked to Palestinian health professionals and came up with a plan to install solar panels at the hospitals so that electricity would be supplied 24 hours a day with no interruptions.

The fundraiser was jointly organized by the United Nations Development Programme and Islamic Relief Canada. There is a June 26 deadline to reach the $200,000 fundraising goal for solar panels for one major hospital, leaving the project $34,000 short as of Thursday with eight days left.

Loubani said Palestinian doctors are "delighted to see how much people have cared from all around the world.”

The plan is to eventually install the panels, beginning in January with one facility yet to be decided, at Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, the European Hospital in Khan Younis, the Rantisi Pediatric Hospital in Gaza City and the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya, the Star reported.

"Once the project is there, it will be local talent that will install it and oversee it,” the doctor said. "Our goal is to have an indigenous Palestinian electrical supply for these hospitals that is green, that is economical and that is reliable.”

Unless the blockade of the strip, mounted by Israel after Hamas took power through elections in 2006, is lifted by 2020, the UN estimated that Gaza would be uninhabitable for its 1.8 million residents.

The solar project will benefit Palestinians and help negate some aspects of the blockade by providing better health care.

"We are not installing these solar panels on people’s homes; were installing them in intensive care units, and operating rooms, and dialysis units,” Loubani said. "So the day that the project goes live it’s already saving lives.”

Last Modified: 2015-06-19 10:02:21
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