Wednesday, March 24, 2010

USAID will purchase cancer equipment for LWF Jerusalem Hospital

USAID is set to purchase cancer equipment for the Augusta Victoria, the Lutheran hospital in Jerusalem - Augusta Victoria Hospital -

March 23, 2010
USAID to Purchase Cancer Equipment for Jerusalem Lutheran Hospital

WASHINGTON (ELCA) -- The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced this month it will purchase a second linear accelerator for Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), a project of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in East Jerusalem. The equipment, valued at about $5.5 million, will be used to treat cancer patients.

In an interview with the News Service of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) while visiting here, Dr. Tawfiq Nasser, AVH chief executive officer, said the U.S. government's support is "diplomacy language that speaks to people right away. The American people are donating such high-tech equipment to care" for patients at the hospital.

Nasser said Lutheran bishops and others from the ELCA expressed support to members of Congress for the work of Augusta Victoria Hospital, including its cancer program.

The linear accelerator is an instrument that emits very high energy radiation to treat cancer patients, particularly those with breast cancer. One machine can treat tens of thousands of patients, said Nasser.

"Since we are the only cancer center, it is very important for us that we don't stop. We can help more people and provide more services for people in Gaza and the West Bank (with a second linear accelerator)," he said.

"When the machine breaks down or needs preventive maintenance, we have no way to continue treatment. We really have the only machine for the whole Palestinian nation, which is operated at the LWF AVH program in Jerusalem," said Nasser.

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, visited Augusta Victoria Hospital at the time of the USAID funding announcement.

"It was a very good visit," said Nasser. "U.S. politics is very difficult when it comes to Israel and Palestine. The Bidens themselves are a bit more engaged historically with the Israeli narrative, and she got to hear the Palestinian narrative through this health story."

Nasser said the current U.S. administration is being "heavily challenged, and it is important that we continue to keep the White House engaged in the Middle East and secure fair diplomacy." Nasser said economic, political and social conditions in the Middle East are near complete failure.

"We are living in a hopeless situation," said Nasser, with no current peace process and the breakdown of political efforts. He said turmoil in the region hampers the hospital's ability to focus on providing the best medical care.

Movement and access into Jerusalem from the West Bank and Gaza is also a concern, said Nasser.

"This is paramount to us, because Palestinians cannot get to the hospital. We have to work on advocacy to secure the rights of patients and to secure that the environment is conducive to quality patient care," he said.

"People are invested in Augusta Victoria Hospital from all over the world," said Nasser. "Augusta Victoria Hospital is a beacon of hope," he said. It represents a much larger story than just being a place that delivers medical care. It represents a successful Christian presence in the Middle East, an institution that is experiencing success and growth there, and it is a place where interfaith dialogue occurs, he said.

"Success is a powerful way to overcome human oppression, even under economic, political and societal failure. We can still produce stories of human success, something every Lutheran should be proud of," said Nasser.

While in the United States, Nasser visited with USAID and members of Congress to express thanks for the purchase and to "convey the importance of development and diplomacy, and how it should speak to the people and not just the government."

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Information about Augusta Victoria Hospital is at
or on the Web.

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