Anglicord’s “Women Die Waiting” campaign, which highlights the lack of access women in Gaza have to appropriate breast cancer treatment, has received cross-party support in the Australian Senate.
Yesterday Senators Lee Rhiannon (Greens), Michaelia Cash (Coalition) and Claire Moore (Labor) successfully put a motion to the Senate that congratulated Anglicord for its efforts to highlight that breast cancer is one of the major causes of death for women in the Gaza Strip, and called on all members of the Senate to support the Women Die Waiting campaign to raise enough funds to provide 2000 women per year in Gaza with breast cancer screening.
Following the success of the motion, Greens Senator and Spokesperson for Women Lee Rhiannon said, “It’s shocking that while the five year survival rate for Australian women diagnosed with breast cancer is 80 per cent, it sits at 40 per cent for women living in the Gaza Strip.”
“Detecting the cancer early enough gives women a better chance of a cure through surgery. Funding to provide 2,000 women in Gaza access to breast cancer screening every year is urgently needed,” Senator Rhiannon said.
Liberals Senator and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Status of Women Michaelia Cash said that while research shows that early detection of breast cancer through mammography helps save women's lives, “Unfortunately for women in Gaza radiotherapy and chemotherapy are not available and as a consequence the death rate for women in Gaza with breast cancer is one of the highest in the world.
“Women no matter where they are should not die waiting for breast cancer treatment,” Senator Cash said.
Melissa Parke, the Member for Fremantle, also spoke in the House of Representatives. Ms Parke participated in a study trip to Palestine supported by Anglicord earlier this year.
“I would like to pay tribute to the tireless efforts of Anglicord's CEO, Misha Coleman, and staff as well as the staff of the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. I urge interested Australians to donate generously to Anglicord's Women Die Waiting campaign. I call upon all the relevant authorities to exercise some compassion,” Ms Parke said.
The move to support the campaign in the national parliament followed the national launch of the campaign in Parliament House, Canberra, last month,
Member for Calwell, Maria Vamvakinou, a staunch supporter of the Women Die Waiting campaign, launched the national campaign and also made a speech to the Parliament praising the impact that the campaign will have on women with breast cancer in Gaza.
“I believe strongly that... women should not be a part of the collateral damage in Palestine.” she said.
Senators and Members joined with CEOs from other international aid agencies and church leaders in the House of Representatives alcove to view the Women Die Waiting documentary produced by Anglicord. The short film features stories interviews with women in Gaza who have had to struggle through the permits process to access treatment in Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
The documentary was filmed in Gaza under the direction of Anglicord’s CEO Misha Coleman, who was moved to investigate this issue further after a consultation with Anglicord’s partner Al Ahli Hospital.
“When I went to Gaza in June last year, the hospital we work with there had just starting operating a new mammography machine that’d been donated by a private donor, but they only had funding for a small number of mammograms and there was still a lot of work to do to coax women to come in to get screened,” Ms Coleman said.
“When you meet women who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, and you know and she knows that treatment is available just on the other side of that wall, and you know that she’s pretty unlikely to get that treatment in time to save her life, it makes you weep.”
Most breast cancers in Gaza (over 60%) are detected too late for surgery to be effective, but chemotherapy is unreliable in Gaza and radiotherapy is not available at all, so they must travel to outside Gaza for appropriate treatment. This is a difficult process, however. They have to wait for travel approval from doctors, for approval from the Treatment Abroad System, for a financial assessment, and then for a permit from the Israeli Defence Force. This process can take up to six months, but some women never get these approvals at all.
As a result, many women die waiting.
Anglicord’s campaign will fund early detection and screening programs through the Al Ahli Hospital, the only Christian hospital in Gaza. The campaign aims to screen 2000 women annually, so that cancers can be detected early enough for surgery to be effective. Over 500 women have been screened since July, around 30% of whom required follow up treatment.
“Please, share this story with your friends and family,” urged Misha Coleman. “Write and tell your local member about it, organise an event using our resource packs, or contribute to the campaign – but whatever you do, don’t wait!”
See www.womendiewaiting.org.au for more information, or call 1800 249 880
Article by: Jane Still