UAE: Meet medics, volunteers who brought wounded Gazan children to Emirates

On the special charter flight, as medical professionals examined patient files, the cabin crew assisted the doctors to the best of their abilities


Nasreen Abdulla


Ahmed Waqqas Alawlaqi

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Photos: Shihab/KT
Photos: Shihab/KT

Published: Thu 23 Nov 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Thu 23 Nov 2023, 6:23 PM

When Emirati Dr Salama Al Sahli signed up for the UAE mission to Al Arish to bring children wounded in the Gaza conflict to the emirates, she had only one mission — to surround herself with kids. “I love children,” she said, speaking to Khaleej Times, aboard the special charter flight. “That is the reason why I became a pediatrician. I wanted to hug these children and make their suffering a little less.”

Dr. Salama Al Sahli.
Dr. Salama Al Sahli.

However, what she found during the 15-hour mission was more than just offering a helping hand to the wounded children. “I was able to connect with some of them on a personal level,” she said. “One of the girls had burns on her face and she looked very depressed. She didn’t want to speak to anyone. I showed her my make-up kit and she played with my lipstick for a while. She smiled when I showed her the mirror.”

Dr Salama admitted that the experience was much more than what she expected. “I think it has made me a better physician, a better mother and a better human,” she said.

On Tuesday, a second batch of Palestinian children and their families arrived in the UAE to undergo treatment for the injuries they sustained during the ongoing Gaza conflict. Some suffered from cancer, while others were battling with a multitude of injuries. Their arrival in UAE came in line with the directive by the President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to bring 1000 children and 1000 cancer patients to the country for treatment.

'I want to help in whatever way I could'

Anesthetist Dr Khalid Al Sawwy was the head of the group of volunteers that headed to Al Arish. “When my colleague said that there was a mission to help the Palestinian children, I said I am in,” he said. “I didn’t know all the details then but I didn’t need to. This conflict has resulted in so much human suffering that I just wanted to go the extra mile and help in whatever way I could.”

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As the flight made its return journey to the UAE, the American pored over the patient files. Several discussions were made on which patient would be taken to which hospital. One thing was clear — the medics wanted the best treatment for the patients.

It was on November 10 that Abu Dhabi's Department of Health sent an open invitation to the medical cadres who wish to volunteer for the UAE’s Gallant Knight 3 to support the operations in Gaza.

Dr Mariam Al Nuaimi.
Dr Mariam Al Nuaimi.

Emirati Dr Mariam Al Nuaimi from Sheikh Khalifa Medical City said she felt newfound appreciation for her life here. “It felt like the longest flight I had ever been on,” she said. “The four hours were very intense for us and the patients. Coming back here, I truly felt safer than I have ever been.”

Rollercoaster of emotions

Assisting the doctors to the best of their abilities was the cabin crew. While cabin crew Shorook shared stories of her home country with some of the children, Hasan and Kamil went the extra mile to make sure they were well fed and comfortable.

Kamil (left) Shorook (centre) and Hasan.
Kamil (left) Shorook (centre) and Hasan.

“It has been a rollercoaster of emotions,” said Kamil. “I spoke to one of the girls who had lost her entire family in a single day. What do you say to these people? How do you comfort them? The only thing we can do is make them as comfortable as possible for the duration of this flight and then pray for them.”

Dr Viejo Thomas.
Dr Viejo Thomas.

Dr Viejo Thomas, from Pure Heroes said that although it was a challenging operation, he was confident that the medical community in the UAE would easily handle more incoming patients. “The medical team we had was fantastic,” he said. “I believe we will be able to reach 1000 patients as we increase the medical cadre on future operations.”

Authorities have revealed that more flights carrying Palestinian children and their families will arrive in the UAE for treatment.


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