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Gaza dentist works in tent as war rages

1 April 2024

Dentist Najdat Saqer’s new surgery in Gaza is like any other except that it is in a tent and he has to speak up to be heard over the sounds of war outside, said an AFP report.

He has all his professional certificates on the wall to reassure his patients and his equipment is state-of-the-art even if it is sitting on a plastic sheet on the sand.

Saqer, 32, had to abandon his original surgery in Nuseirat in central Gaza early in the war after “the area was targeted several times” by Israeli strikes “causing severe damage to my clinic”, he said.

The blasts wrecked much of the interior, with the dentist showing AFP on his tablet how even the steel door was pocked with shrapnel.

But with the war still raging and Gaza’s health system collapsing, Saqer went back to try to retrieve what he could to help people coming to him with toothache.

“Most of the dentists had either left and gone abroad or their clinics were damaged, so I got the idea to set up a makeshift clinic,” he said.

“I went to my clinic and managed to retrieve my dentist’s chair and other equipment and had them transported here in a rickshaw, before setting up a tent.”

Despite the fighting going on outside his replacement clinic in Nuseirat, Saqer is unflappable, calming a young boy he was treating as the sound of the drone overhead competed with his drill.

“The biggest obstacles are the lack of electricity, water and dental equipment, which are not available. And even if they are available, they cost a lot,” he said.

The United Nations has warned that Gaza’s health system is on the point of collapse, with none of its hospitals fully functioning for the past two months.

Heavy fighting has been going on for weeks around some of them, which have also been a refuge for thousands who have lost their homes or fled the fighting.

Some 9,000 patients in the besieged Palestinian territory need to be evacuated for emergency care, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.

“With only 10 hospitals minimally functional across the whole of Gaza, thousands of patients continue to be deprived of health care,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on X.

Gaza had 36 hospitals before the fighting started, according to the WHO.

The war began with Hamas’s October 7 attack that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,705 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.


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