Anglican Overseas Aid and Hadassah Australia are involved in a unique interfaith project improving health care for Palestinians.
When Associate Professor Julian Rait took over as chair of Anglican Overseas Aid on 1 March this year, he was already deeply involved in global public health initiatives.
Currently professor of ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne and chairman of medical defence organisation MDA National, Professor Rait has also been an affiliated physician with the Himalayan Cataract Project and the Nepal Glaucoma Eye Clinics Association, as well as working on blindness prevention in other developing countries.
So championing Anglican Overseas Aid’s involvement in Project Rozana, a groundbreaking joint venture with the Hadassah Australia Foundation and the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, was a no-brainer.
“This is a fantastic project”, Professor Rait told the MJA.
“This is not just a purely medical venture, it’s also an interfaith project”, he said, referencing the involvement of the Jewish, predominantly Muslim Palestinian and Anglican Christian communities.
Project Rozana has three specific missions: to provide paediatric intensive care for Palestinian children with special acute medical needs at Hadassah Hospital; to train Palestinian doctors from the West Bank and Gaza Strip at Hadassah in specialties needed in their communities; and to train Palestinian mental health workers at Hadassah, specifically psychologists and trauma counsellors.
The project was born out of a three-month upskilling program for eight Palestinian psychologists that was sponsored by Hadassah Australia in 2011. The success of that led to a two-year certification program.
Further talks with Mr Izzat Abdulhadir, the representative of the Palestinian Authority in Australia, led to a connection with Anglican Overseas Aid, which was already active in Gaza with its breast cancer project, Women Die Waiting.
By November 2012, the president of Hadassah Australia, Ron Finkel, had met with the Palestinian Deputy Minister for Health, the ministry had subsequently approved Project Rozana, and a tripartite agreement between the three agencies had been signed.
Project Rozana is understood to be the first time that Australians can make a fully deductible donation to an overseas aid project where the beneficiaries are Palestinian, the funds are spent exclusively in an Israeli hospital, with the fundraising done by a combination of Jewish and Anglican national organisations.
Professor Rait is about to travel to Gaza to take part in an assessment of the progress of Project Rozana.
“I’ll be heading over in August”, he said. “We will be assessing to make sure that our efforts result in the improved care for Palestinians.
“Our aims are to deliver more doctors for the Palestinians, build capacity in Palestine, and reduce the burden of traumatic stress disorder and improve primary care”, Professor Rait said.
Project Rozana is named after four-year-old Palestinian Rozana Ghannam. In May 2012, she fell from a ninth-floor balcony in Gaza, sustaining life-threatening injuries.
Her mother Maysa insisted Rozana be taken to Hadassah Hospital in the Israeli-controlled part of Jerusalem, acknowledged as the best paediatric intensive care unit in the Middle East, where Rozana was successfully treated.
“When we arrived at the checkpoint, I told the soldiers that Rozana must go to Hadassah Hospital. At Hadassah you are a human being, that’s all”, Maysa Ghannam has said. “You are a person without politics, without religion, without colour.”
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