The volunteers arrived at the camp on behalf of the Jerusalem AIDS Project, an Israeli organization which promotes education for HIV/AIDS prevention, public health, training, and counseling.
The refugee camp is populated by an overwhelming majority of Muslims, and only camp administrators were aware of the fact that the envoy was Israeli.
Volunteer helps refugee children (Photo: Sharon - IsraAID)
The organization’s Executive Director Hanni Rozenberg joined the envoy, which aimed at assessing the urgent needs of the refugees, who were struggling to survive in the dire conditions.
“It was 45 degrees yesterday and the conditions are hard to bear. There are a large number of refugees here who have AIDS, malaria, polio, and various fevers, and they cannot leave here,” Rozenberg explained.
“There is terrible malnutrition here, its like landing on another planet. There is so much to be done,” she continued.
Basic medical equipment lacking
The organization began by distributing clothing for infants and toddlers, who spent their days in worn out rags before the envoy arrived. But the lack of clothing, and widespread malnutrition, were not the only problems at the camp.
Rozenberg, a nurse, was shocked at the local birthing rooms, which she says did not even have basic equipment. She also expressed concern over the fact that such a large part of the camp’s population was sick, and only five doctors were available to them, two per shift.
“We came here to see what basic equipment is needed, as well as medical training, health education, and medicine, in order to help the Muslims to reduce AIDS,” Rozenberg explained.
“Awareness here is very low, people don’t use condoms and the number of carriers rises. Girls aren’t allowed to leave the huts after sundown because there is fear of rape. We are hoping we can help, and get Israel involved. That’s why we are in contact with the foreign ministry and the local embassy,” she said.
Rozenberg said that after needs were evaluated, the organization would meet with IsraAID, an Israeli NGO focusing on AIDS awareness and prevention, in order to begin purchasing equipment.
Rozenberg also said that volunteers would be trained in cesarean-sections, infant operations, and health education.
“It’s a bottomless pit. Whatever they can bring is welcome. Only someone who is actually here can understand how horrible it really is,” Rozenberg concluded.