Twenty-eight premature babies arrived for hospitalisation in Egypt from Gaza on Monday. The babies arrived by ambulances from a hospital in southern Gaza through the Rafah border crossing.
Intensive Egyptian efforts had been underway to transfer the premature babies to Egypt for treatment owing to the worsening conditions in the Strip. The babies, originally 39, were moved from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to a maternity hospital in Rafah. Eight have died and three are still at the maternity hospital.
According to a Ministry of Health spokesperson, ambulances carrying mobile incubators have been present for several days in front of the Rafah crossing waiting for the arrival of the premature babies through the Palestinian Red Crescent. Places in Egyptian hospitals have been prepared to receive them.
“Transferring the babies from Gaza to Egypt requires secure roads, a consensus among the involved parties, and stringent security guarantees to ensure their safety during transportation,” Hisham Mehanna, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said on television on Saturday.
Transferring the premature babies is one of the multiple tasks the Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) is involved in. It also coordinates and oversees the distribution of humanitarian and relief aid destined for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. This involves collaboration with civil society organisations, individuals, and companies through the ERC’s 27 branches nationwide, said Rami Al-Nazer, CEO of the ERC, speaking during a roundtable for the press.
On the international front, the ERC’s coordination extends to the ICRC, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, various UN agencies, and international organisations dedicated to humanitarian efforts.
“We also collaborate with the Palestinian Red Crescent, the UN Palestinian Refugees Agency UNRWA, and local stakeholders in Gaza. Our collaborative efforts are meant to assess priorities, identify needs, and streamline the process of delivering aid to the Gaza Strip and its residents,” Al-Nazer said.
Volunteers play a pivotal role in this endeavour, working tirelessly around the clock. “Given that humanitarian aid planes arrive from different countries throughout the day without a fixed schedule, our dedicated team ensures the seamless and timely facilitation of aid to benefit Palestinians in need,” Al-Nazer added.
ERC volunteers have increased by 2,000 since the outbreak of the Israeli war on Gaza on 7 October to reach 32,000.
According to Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, Egypt has contributed more than two-thirds of the aid entering Gaza, stressing that this reflects the genuine feelings of Egypt’s people and government towards Palestine.
To date, Palestine has received 1,090 trucks loaded with relief aid, totalling 18,800 tons. Egypt’s contribution alone accounts for 10,000 tons.
Madbouli affirmed Egypt’s commitment to welcoming Gazans in need of medical treatment. “Ongoing coordination efforts are in place to receive aid via various means, including shipments by sea, as well as by land and air,” Al-Nazer said.
About 131 planes carrying humanitarian aid from 30 countries and eight international organisations totalling over 3,000 tons in weight have landed in Egypt to deliver assistance to Gaza, he said.
The ERC’s role extends beyond the administration of aid. The organisation emphasises upholding international humanitarian law, safeguarding civilians and health facilities, and ensuring the protection of children and women, Al-Nazer stated.
International aid is on the verge of depletion, yet the pace of aid from Egypt remains high. However, there is a pressing need for greater support from the international community, he added.
“Irrespective of the quantity, aid represents only a fraction of the extensive needs faced by the 2.5 million Gazans whose lives have abruptly halted, plunging them into a humanitarian crisis,” he said.
“Gazans need security, peace, water, and food. The Strip’s hospitals have become inoperable, and we have learned from the Palestinian Red Crescent that hospitals in Gaza have been evacuated, and the injured have been relocated to southern Gaza.”
Al-Nazer said the ERC is planning to cooperate with its Palestinian counterpart to establish a field hospital complete with all the necessary medical equipment once the Israeli shelling of the Strip stops.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 23 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly