Sunday, September 27, 2020

Update: Efforts to save Lian Barhoum entering second phase

By Felix Black - May 02, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Lian Barhoum] [Rambam Medical Centre]

Concert at the Palestinian National Theater in Jerusalem to raise money for Lian Barhoum's treatment. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.


Lian Barhoum, a toddler from Gaza, is suffering from a lack of the enzyme oxalate in her liver which if left untreated, will systematically destroy all the organs in her body. 

The Palestine Monitor reported on her case in February 2012. Lian is currently undergoing treatment, with her parents at her side, at Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center. Her disease has already caused kidney problems, and she undergoes four hours of dialysis treatment on a daily basis to help her body cope with dysfunctional kidneys. Her only hope of survival is a liver and kidney transplant carried out by a specially trained doctor from Belgium that would cost in the region of $500,000 or NIS 1,500,000. Neither the Ministries of Health from the Palestinian Authority or the Israeli government will fund her treatment.

Grassroots efforts to save her life have been initiated under the campaign name “Ashan Lian” (Save Lian). To date, they have raised only a sixth of the required funding to save her life, $67,000 or NIS 250,000, since starting funding in late January. However, they have faced many obstacles in trying to do so. At first they could not secure a bank account in order to direct the funding from donors. Every charity they approached stated that half a million dollars exceeded their bank account limit, and other organizations would not take their money without full disclosure and transparency concerning the origin of the money.

It was only recently that legal cover was established for the fundraising from the Baladna Association for Arab Youth located in Haifa. 

What’s more, as activist Manar Shehede states, “The fundraising efforts have so far depended on concerts and grassroots initiatives. We are still waiting on the Peres Center for Peace and the Schneider Children’s Medical Center to get back in contact with us to negotiate a 30% discount on the operation.”

At the time of writing however, the campaign still requires $433,000 (NIS 1,250,000) to save her life. Although she is stable, the money is still required in the next few months sooner rather than later to stop the disease spreading. Doctors at the hospital have confirmed that it will target her eyesight next.

The efforts to save her have been remarkable, if the response from larger organizations and government officials has not been so

“Obviously, the operation will not be held tomorrow, but the goal is still in front of us. We are aspiring for the best, and it is achievable to save her,” says Manar.

Lian’s parents have been very vocal about the incredible support they are being given, but the resolve they have had to stay with their child in a shared hospital room for over a year is unquestionably more admirable. The Israeli authorities do not permit them to stay anywhere else due to their lack of citizenship and the very fact that they are from Gaza.

In April, a concert was held at the Palestinian National Theatre in Jerusalem, featuring the singers Mira Azar and Rawan Khoury. The atmosphere in support of Lian was rousing. To give an example, the ticket fee was NIS 40, but several donors were reported to have given in excess of $500. 

 “We are also trying to involve schools in the campaign to raise awareness for charity events, to relay her case between the new young generation and their parents,” explains Manar.

Najib Darawshy, one of the original students at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology who initiated the campaign, has led the effort in several schools. One event he organised was for the children in Jaffa city, with NIS 10,000 being raised on that day alone. A friendly Palestinian football match was also played out in support of Lian in the stadium of Umm al-Fahm. 

The efforts to save her have been remarkable, if the response from larger organizations and government officials has not been so. The campaign is entering a difficult second phase, with awareness growing, but the target sum of money still very much elusive. It will be a test of Palestinian and international spirit to continue supporting Lian, keep the campaign running, and bolster her chances of survival.

The Facebook page run by students from Haifa provides contacts, ways to donate, and up-to-date information on Lian’s situation.

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