We have finished our first work week which also concludes our time at the Palestine Hospital Complex. The weekend is Friday-Saturday here. So, Thursday was another dinner; this time with Harb’s aunt and uncle Wafa and George. Wednesday, we ate and hung out at Muhammed’s house. Dinner was amazing. Grilled lamb, chicken, and kabobs; plus tons of “mazza” (e.g. pita and hummus or babbaganoush), and the most dense dessert I’ve ever eaten- Knafeh. This is a half inch thick base of white cheese with a thin layer of cornbread-like substance drenched in a clear syrup. I almost didn’t finish it; but if you know me, you know I will not waste a dessert, no matter the cost. The attendee mix was interesting and included Arab-Americans, pure Palestinians, Two USAID workers, an Asian volunteer, another medical student, and us. Over hooka and rounds of drinks (N/A in this Muslim house), we inevitably learned more about the conflict and also about how the US is involved in Palestinian aid.

One somewhat surprisingly widespread opinion was that foreign aid negatively enables Palestinian people and can hinder societal and economic growth. The following is my interpretation of some of the opinions of the people we spent time with yesterday including my own interpretations- The basic premise is that Aid does not encourage innovation or ingenuity, and instead can encourage idleness and feeling of entitlement. Many books are written on this subject and heated arguments are not difficult to incite by taking a position. Aid has, in many situations in recent history, resulted in no long-term improvement in the condition of the targets of the Aid. While the following example does NOT take place, the refugee camps could be taken advantage of by the refugees if they wanted to only obtain shelter, healthcare, education, and social services from the U.N., and not put effort into self-support and self-betterment. On the contrary, I have been barraged by the industriousness of the citizens here. Buildings are going up all over the city. There is a new city being built from scratch which I’ve mentioned in a previous blog and is in our links page (Rawabi). Streets are being rebuilt and new sewage systems installed, physicians work hard and participate in numerous community projects in addition to their clinic duties- all for a modest wage. Laziness is not an option in an environment where each day is a struggle. The methods of aid provision here, I think, have been distributed in a manner which has set the Palestinian people up for success should they obtain control over the territory. In meeting with the director of UNRWA (U.N. Relief  and Works Agency) of the West Bank, Dr. Khammash, we learned that a huge majority of the providers in the camps are Palestinian, and they work in harmony with the Palestinian Authority-provided healthcare. In fact, Dr. Jaraiseh of the Flagship Project informed us of how the groups are working together to establish standards of care and protocols for common conditions. The citizens here are largely self-sufficient and I’m hopeful and confident that our experiences next week in the UNRWA refugee camps will solidify this belief.

I stop at a page with each post to avoid rambling or causing boredom. But this only allows me to scratch the surface of our experiences. If anyone out there is curious about any topic, please post a comment or email me for expanding or discussion; it’s no problem.


One Response to “Aid”
  1. Heidi says:

    As one who has recently conducted oversight work of USAID programs in a different third world country, I appreciate your thoughts about their role in Gaza/West Bank. The aim should always be empowerment, not entitlement, but we have all seen in various circumstances how that aim is often frustrated both domestically and internationally.

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