Dubai: Doctor who has been volunteering in Gaza for 13 years raises funds for Palestinian children

The more you get involved, the more you feel for them, says the German doctor

by

Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Wed 15 Nov 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 15 Nov 2023, 11:29 PM

For the last 13 years, Dubai-based paediatric orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Marc Sinclair has travelled to the Gaza Strip twice a year to help children with deformities and war injuries. Co-founder of The Little Wings Foundation (TLWF), Dr. Marc built a small and dedicated team that volunteers their time to help thousands of children in the Palestinian city.

Now, as Gaza undergoes one of the worst attacks it has ever faced, Dr. Marc is appealing for help to aid as many doctors and patients as he can on the ground. “For the time being, nobody goes into Gaza,” he said, speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of a fundraising dinner the organisation conducted in partnership with Al Jalila Foundation.


The event held in Dubai on Tuesday at Zinn Cafe and Bistro saw several UAE residents contribute generously. “However, we have contact with the doctors on the ground and we know what they need. We've actually made a huge purchase of surgical instruments, nails, plates and things that are needed to treat fractures as well as antibiotics, pain medicine. These items are in Egypt right now from where it will be easier to take to Gaza.”

Dr. Marc and his team are working to get the equipment into the besieged city, but he says it could be weeks before their efforts bear fruit. “It's a process, to be honest,” he said. “I mean even UNICEF and UNWRA is not bringing in what they want to bring. So it's really difficult. Hopefully it'll get through in the next two to three weeks.”


Additionally, the group is focusing on the work that needs to be done in Gaza once the war is over. “We've always been focusing on children with orthopedic conditions,” he said. Now, there's a lot of crush injuries in those situations and buildings falling onto children. So we want to help them to have a prosthetics so that they can begin rebuilding their future.”

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Donating equipment

According to Dr. Marc, the situation on the ground is dire. “There's some surgeries that are being done without anesthesia,” he said. “At this point, the doctors are asking for hand drills. Normally we have power tools. So, they're down to two really medieval kind of practices.”

Due to the needs, the team of TLWF decided to open up their storage facility in Gaza to the doctors on ground who needed it. “We have a big storage in Khan Younis in Gaza with drills and things like that,” he said. “It is all the equipment that we have collected in the last 13 years. We opened it up to them because they needed it. There's no justification to hold on to your drills and implants if they're looking for it.”

However, Dr. Marc admitted that the group will have to start their operations from scratch when they are able to in Gaza. He is hopeful that the team, which would have been in Gaza right now under normal circumstances, will be able to return there in January 2024.

Bonds of love

The German doctor, who arrived in the UAE more than 17 years ago, said that the Palestine cause has always been special to him. “I think there's nothing comparable to their situation in our world today,” he said. “I've experienced the hardships of the city full, first-hand. So, the more you get involved, the more you feel for them.”

Dr. Marc said that he has grown to love the children he has operated on deeply. “When you work with children and their prosthetics, you tend to develop a deep bond with them,” he said. “We follow patients for a long time. After the surgery, we follow up. They might need another surgery down the line. So it's a very intimate relationship with the family, with the parents and with the child.”

Haya Shahin Al Khayyat, UAE Fundraising Manager of TLWF said that the group has continued to stay in touch with several of its patients and local doctors throughout the ordeal that began on October 7. “We have been sending them messages and checking in on them,” she said.

She said that the work the group does impacts families on multiple levels. “When you give prosthetics to a child who is immobile, you not only change the life of the child but impact the entire family,” she said. “The child is then able to go to school and be more mobile. They are able to get an education and this changes the course of their life. The mother, who otherwise would have had to carry the child around, gets a lot more freedom and hours to herself that she can use otherwise.”

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