Press releases

Immediate release 20/08/14 (scroll down for previous releasees)

PM MUSTN’T TURN HIS BACK ON THE CHILDREN OF GAZA
Campaigners and MPs who are calling on the Government to send a hospital ship and humanitarian aid to support the beleaguered citizens of Gaza have expressed dismay that, as the Prime Minister takes another holiday in Cornwall, he is allowing the UK Government to turn its back on the people of this Palestinian territory.

For the past two weeks, a petition has gathered more than 70,000 signatures and cross party support to send medical aid – specifically the RFA Argus – to support the people of Gaza and offer relief to the medical and hospital services which have been overwhelmed by the casualties of the heavy Israeli bombing of the territory, and has demonstrated the strength of feeling across the UK.

However, the RFA Argus has recently left port in Falmouth and travelled in the wrong direction, up the English Channel to the east, to be engaged in a naval training exercise.

Campaigner and organiser, Veronica Vickery, said:

“We are outraged that the government could think that a training exercise off Studland beach, is a good use of tax-payer funded Argus at a time when children in Gaza are in desperate need of acute care medical facilities. Campaign supporters overwhelmingly feel that the Government has its priorities all wrong.”

RFA Argus mapped by vessel finder.com, undertaking exercises south of Studland beach. 19/08/14.

RFA Argus mapped by vessel finder.com, undertaking exercises south of Studland beach. 19/08/14.

Liberal Democrat MP, Andrew George, who has written to the Prime Minister and Defence Secretary urging them to send aid to the region, said:
“If Parliament had been recalled I don’t think that the UK Government could turn its back on the people of Gaza in the way that the Prime Minister is permitting. On a day when children are again being killed by Israeli bombardment, the Prime Minister takes another holiday. It just doesn’t look good.”

Mr George joins with former head of the Royal Navy, Lord West of Spithead and many others, in calling on Parliament to be immediately recalled to address the crises in the Middle East. Mr George has again written to Number 10 and the Defence Secretary urging them to send urgent aid to the region.

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photo

Campaign Crew stakes out St Just, Cornwall the home port of campaign. Photo Veronica Vickery

Immediate release 18/08/14

70,000 people ask: why is British hospital ship still in Falmouth harbour?

70,000 people have signed the petition calling for the UK Government to send the casualty ship RFA Argus to support relief efforts in Gaza. Despite the massive grass-roots support for the campaign, the Argus has not left Falmouth. The petition has now been formally presented to the Prime Minister three times, but the campaign organizers are still waiting for a response from the Prime Minister. Organizer Chris Neal said “we hear daily from our supporters wondering why a state-of-the-art casualty ship like RFA Argus is still moored in Falmouth when there is such unmet critical need in Gaza”. The change.org/hospitalship2gaza petition continues to call for the immediate deployment of the ship to provide medical care to blockaded victims of conflict in Gaza.

Dr Hani Suliman Salamah in Gaza, a Palestinian doctor working with NGOs, spoke with Veronica Vickery. He tells how people in Gaza are desperate for concrete action on the ground – humanitarian medical relief whatever the ongoing politics. Gaza for Dr Hani feels like one continuous war zone, where even in-between the ever-recurring active conflicts, there is the feeling that the territory hangs under a cloud of conflict and of course ongoing blockade; it is an occupied territory. Gaza he says needs more than teams of doctors – doctors need facilities to effectively treat people – “hospital facilities, field hospitals and eventually a fixed hospital…”

The courtyard between ward blocks European Gaza Hospital 2003. Image: Anthony Battersby

The courtyard between ward blocks European Gaza Hospital 2003. Image: Anthony Battersby

Dr Hani dreams of a UK built and controlled hospital that would be safe whatever chaos was happening around it. A hospital he says complete with shelters for families. And he can he says donate some land! The reality however is that following a report into hospital provision commissioned by UNRWA in 1987, the EU built the European Gaza Hospital between Khan Younis and Rafa to full European standards. Even this facility was not safe from attack in the current conflict.

Reports say that according to the UN thirty-three hospitals and clinics have been damaged in the conflict, some hospitals are shut altogether with an overall loss of 40% of beds. Meanwhile there are about 10,000 injured people, many have multiple and complex traumas that are likely to have life-long consequences, particularly when effective treatment is delayed. As Doctor Hani insists, the ability of doctors to treat the wounded effectively is severely curtailed by lack of facilities. Campaign supporter Sherry from Westcliff-on-Sea sums up the situation in Gaza:

“As a public health professional, I’ve been reading the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports with great alarm. The public health emergency is growing due to inadequate hygiene conditions in shelters that cannot cope with the 475,000 displaced people. Disease is spreading, there’s not enough clean water and food is running low. Furthermore hospitals are struggling to cope with the huge numbers of casualties. A situation made worse as supplies can’t get in past the blockade. As a citizen of the UK, a nation that takes pride in the aid it provides, I urge you to despatch this ship to start saving lives.”

Anthony Battersby, operations management consultant, architect and health planner, who was part of the original UNWRA reporting team said:

“Hospital building is a slow process and needs a relatively peaceful environment to happen. It also needs substantial on-going resources to fund recurrent expenditure. So sending RFA Argus and other hospital ships is really the only way of getting additional emergency hospital care into Gaza.”
70,000 people are joining Veronica and Chris campaign organisers, calling for our Government to place the UK at the forefront of a pioneering humanitarian response. Charlotte Leslie MP for Bristol NW said:

“…the West has a responsibility to provide all humanitarian aid it can, and to treat this tragedy with the impartiality, objectivity, deep understanding and compassion that it deserves, thus increasing its ability to begin to broker any kind of peace between Palestine and Israel.”

This echoes the feelings of many of the campaign supporters such as Tracey who said: “The people of Gaza are in desperate need of medical treatment, the least the UK government can do is to send a hospital ship in their time of need.” As Michael from Devon points out: “RFA Argus spends a lot of her time in Falmouth training helicopter crews and medical personnel for rapid response. This is an ideal situation to put this work into practice in a humanitarian role.” Jenny from Witney echoes many supporter messages: Why have these ships if we don’t use them when needed? As Tom from Staines put it: “ People need help, we have the resources”.
MPs from all shades of the political spectrum have joined the call on our Government to urgently deploy RFA Argus to Gaza to meet this desperate need. The campaign is strongly supported by a team of cross-party MPs: Andrew George, Grahame Morris, Charlotte Leslie and Caroline Lucas. Grahame Morris MP said:

“With nobody allowed in or out of Gaza, the situation has become intolerable and something must be done by the UK Government. The government cannot continue to stand by and do nothing. I call on the Prime Minister as a matter of urgency to use the hospital ship RFA Argus, to spearhead a humanitarian relief effort for the people of Gaza. She is uniquely designed for this type of necessity and the British Government must unilaterally and rapidly deploy RFA Argus to Gaza.”

Andrew George MP strongly expressed the views of campaign supporters, who are clear in their wish for this country to use its expertise and resources for the benefit of peoples in need, stating in his letter to the Prime Minister:

“In these circumstances, I am sure that the majority of people in this country believe that [sending RFA Argus to Gaza] would be the right and proper thing to do and appropriate to the standing which we hope that the United Kingdom has in the world as a country which will go to the aid of others in their hour of need.”

ENDS

For information and interviews call Veronica Vickery

Note to editors

1. The crowded conditions in UN schools now serving as refugee centers are a potential breeding ground for the spread of infectious disease. Wild Polio Virus type 1 was identified in Israel, West Bank and Gaza in 2013, with 136 positive samples taken, the most recent sample found in Southern Israel in March 2014. Gaza was originally (1980s) one of the most difficult places to get polio under control. The fact that WPV1 has been found in sewage last year is of particular concern to WHO, now struggling in the final stages of trying to eradicate the disease. There have already been cases of polio in Syria and Iraq as a result of fighting. In both countries getting polio under control originally was a lot easier than it was in Gaza. Smashing up infrastructure in Gaza is epidemiologically about the most irresponsible thing that can be done (information: Anthony Battersea, freelance operations management consultant, architect and health planner, FBA Health Systems Analysts)

2. There are media reports of a current rise in cases of Meningitis in Gaza, directly attributed to overcrowding and living conditions. Breakdown in health particularly among children, is placing an additional stress on hospital services already struggling to cope with conflict injuries as well as their ongoing commitment to those with chronic health problems. The medical situation is expected to deteriorate further as overcrowding is compounded by infrastructural services (water, sewage, power, agriculture) being severely damaged in the hostilities.

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Immediate release 10/08/14: Campaign to send a hospital ship to Gaza reacts to Government plans to deploy team of medics

More than 50,000 people from 44 countries around the world, have signed a petition calling for the UK Government to send the casualty ship RFA Argus to support relief efforts in Gaza. Campaign organizer Veronica Vickery said “We welcome any plan to send desperately needed medical aid to conflict victims in Gaza. However, they also need medical facilities to replace those that have been destroyed. We are very much concerned that whilst being a really welcome start, sending a team of 15 medics will hardly begin to meet the medical needs of the 10,000 people injured. Previously UK volunteer doctors have reported delays of a fortnight at the Gaza border before being able to get on with their jobs. We wonder how effective this provision will be given the blockade.”

The Change.org promoted petition, started by Veronica Vickery and Chris Neal from Cornwall, continues to call for the immediate deployment of the ship – currently based in Falmouth – to provide medical care. MPs Andrew George and Grahame Morris are leading and consolidating considerable cross party support for this campaign. The petition to send the hospital ship was presented to the Prime Minister on 7th August and will be represented again on Monday 11th August.

Veronica said: “The scenes coming out of Gaza are truly horrific and we need to act. A health crisis is looming for trapped civilians, with dire conditions in the main Gaza City El Shifa hospital. Doctors operate on the floor & in corridors. People die untreated. Only one x-ray machine is working with a lack of doctors, nurses, paramedics, and the most basic equipment.

We should be at the forefront of the humanitarian response, a pioneering lead from the UK in the face of tragedies like this one.”

Change.org/hospitalship2gaza

ENDS

For information and interviews email 

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Immediate release: 7th August 2014

Press release on our behalf from CHANGE.ORG who are actively promoting the campaign.

Calls grow to send Navy hospital ship to Gaza to stem “health crisis”

More than 1000 people have signed a petition calling for the UK Government to send the hospital ship RFA Argus to support relief efforts in Gaza.

The petition, started on Change.org by Veronica Vickery and Chris Neal from Cornwall, calls for the immediate deployment of the ship  – currently based in Falmouth –  to provide medical care. It has been supported by a cross party group of  MPs including Andrew George, Sarah Newton and Kerry Mccarthy.

Veronica said: “The scenes coming out of Gaza are truly horrific and we need to act. A health crisis is looming for trapped civilians, with dire conditions in the main Gaza City Shifa hospital. Doctors operate on the floor & in corridors. People die untreated. Only one x-ray machine is working with a lack of doctors, nurses, paramedics, and the most basic equipment.

We should be at the forefront of the humanitarian response, a pioneering lead from the UK in the face of tragedies like this one.”

Veronica plans to lead a delegation of campaigners to deliver the petition to Downing street in the coming week.

Change.org/hospitalship2gaza

ENDS

For information and interviews call Kajal Odedra

Campaigner
07988 210203 | skype: kajal.change | twitter: @KajalOdedra1

John Coventry

Comms Director UK & Europe
@johnnycov
  Change.org
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Find our petition here, please sign & share
http://change.org/hospitalship2gaza
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