Mercy Malaysia, local medical personnel to join global Healthcare Workers for Palestine protest

A global protest against the targeted killing of healthcare professionals in Gaza will be held tomorrow (Dec 15) for two hours from 2pm, including at the Main Auditorium, Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM, Jalan Yaacob Latif, Kuala Lumpur.

The event, organised by Healthcare Workers for Palestine, will begin in Australia and move to Malaysia, the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East, Europe, and finally, the United States.

Healthcare Workers for Palestine is also calling for a permanent ceasefire and an end to the blockade in Gaza.

Dr Saiful Kassim, an endocrinologist, diabetes specialist, and obesity physician, said that from Oct 7 to Dec 6, 278 healthcare workers were killed in Gaza. That’s almost five per day.

Of that figure, 52 were physicians, 22 dentists, 26 medical or dental students, four medical scientists, 87 nurses, 23 paramedics, 10 physiotherapists, 32 pharmacists, 14 lab technicians, seven optometrists, and one administrator.

Israeli forces kidnapped another 41 healthcare workers, but two were released, leaving 39 in prison.

“We are protesting in solidarity for our fellow healthcare workers, and also to demand a permanent ceasefire in Gaza,” said Dr Saiful.

“The targeted killings of healthcare professionals is unacceptable, as we are there to help the wounded and the sick. By attacking us, you are hurting the innocent lives we are trying to save.

Dr Saiful said Mercy Malaysia had been planning the protest march for the past two weeks, and got two Mercy representatives in Gaza to send recordings of their experiences.

“Only medical personnel will be involved in the protest. We did not want to get the government involved,” he said.

“As part of the programme, we will have booths, an art exhibition, and a forum on how the public can help in this humanitarian disaster.

“Prof Madya Dr Shalimar Abdullah, a hand surgeon at Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz and Mercy Malaysia vice-president, will give the opening address.”

Ilyas Al-Jelda, the vice-president of the General Trade Union of Health Workers in Gaza, could not appear before the World Health Organisation’s Executive Board on Dec 10 to shed light on the horrific conditions facing public service workers in Palestine, due to the spotty communications.

Daniel Bertossa, the general-secretary of Public Services International – the Global Union Federation representing health and care – read his message.

“I was forcibly displaced, as my home was bombed by the occupation forces, and I found refuge with my family in the church, which was also not spared from the bombing. With the other 600 refugees, we lack the most basic needs,” Al-Jelda said in his message.

“You may not believe me if I told you that we are without food, water, and vegetables… Let’s not even talk about electricity and the lack of medicines for the elderly, such as my mother.”

WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, acknowledged the tragic loss of life among Palestinian health workers, adding that Gaza’s health system is on its knees and on the verge of collapse.

He said only 14 hospitals out of the original 36 are partially functional, and only 1,400 beds are available, out of 3,500.

Tedros added that more than 180 women give birth in Gaza every single day. There are 2,000 patients on cancer therapy, 350,000 patients with diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, and at least 20,000 civilians in need of acute psychiatric care.

Editor’s note:  (Dec 15,2023: 6.10pm): A previous version of this report had stated that the venue of the protest was at the Malay College Old Boys Association (MCOBA) Building in Kuala Lumpur. This article has since been revised as the organiser has changed the venue.

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