Ms Arti Garg, a locum surgical consultant in general and emergency surgery at Newham Hospital, spent 10 days in Gaza in 2019, providing medical aid and expertise to those in conflict and crisis.
For the first time since the pandemic started, she will be returning to Gaza with the charity Medical Aid Palestine, where she’ll spend a week supporting and working with surgical teams from two local hospitals. We caught up with her to learn more about her charity work.
What was your experience like when you first went to Gaza?
“The first time I went to Gaza to provide surgical support was overwhelming. But now, I can look back and say that I definitely have learned so much from the experience. When working in Gaza, you are working in challenging conditions with limited resources as it is a country impacted by war – it really makes you think and recognise everything we do have here in the UK.
“In the NHS, we are lucky to have plenty of resources and equipment on hand, but in Gaza, resources are scarce. This was a big challenge for me at first, but I was able to adapt and learn from the surgeons and clinicians there how to work in these conditions. I think that we have a lot to learn from them in terms of being more sustainable and considerate with the equipment that we use.”
What’s your most memorable experience from that time?
“I have plenty of memorable experiences from my time in Gaza in 2019, so it’s difficult to choose just one! I think that the main thing that really stuck out to me after I went was that despite the language barrier, the language of care and gratitude is universal.
“My approach to my work with the charity is to provide the same high standard of care to everyone, especially people and communities who are living through difficult circumstances. It served as a reminder that as healthcare professionals, even if we don’t speak the same language, we all want to do the same thing – help people who are unwell get better.”
What made you want to return?
“Being able to give back and do what I can to help those who are most in need is the most rewarding feeling ever. And this is something I can do a lot of in Gaza, so I always wanted to go back and help more.
“To me, working with these Medical Aid Palestine isn’t a one-off thing, but something that I want to continue doing for as long as I can. During the pandemic we have kept the support and training ongoing with virtual meetings and colorectal multi-disciplinary team meetings.
“I also want to give back to a local orphanage, the Al-Amal Orphanage, which I visited during my time in Gaza. It’s an orphanage for children who have been displaced from war. Being a mum, I felt so moved seeing the young children who have been impacted due to conflict, so I crowdfunded for the orphanage and raised over 8000 in donations so far.”
What will you be doing while in Gaza?
“I’ll be spending a week in there working across two different hospitals: the Al-Shifa Hospital and the European Gaza Hospital. Myself and the UK team will be working along with the surgical teams there, from senior surgeons to trainees, seeing outpatients and operating on around 20 colorectal cancer cases.
“As part of my time with the two hospitals, I will also be training surgical trainees and taking part in a colorectal symposium. There will be presentations covering different key topics in the field, from complex cases to more routine laparoscopic operations. By doing this, we’re able to pass on our knowledge and expertise to clinicians in the local area and leave a lasting impact.
“I’m really excited to go back and continue to provide help to those who need it most. If anyone else is thinking of doing this type of charity work, or wants to know more about it, please do feel free to contact me.