‘Saving Lives’ joins hands with the ‘Middle East Peace Initiative’
In explaining the role the of a UK charity called ‘Saving Lives’ it’s Director, Peter Patel said, "In disaster areas of the world, many aid organisations tend to walk away prematurely and without building the capacity for victims to look after their own affairs and so we essentially do the post-disaster intermediate term work by providing advanced training to local medical personnel and monitoring their progress. Basically, we identify a project we want to deliver; we collect the money, find appropriate NGO partners, adopt that project, build it, deliver it, and oversee the rehabilitation period over two to three years."
Since 1992 Saving Lives has set up successful projects in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka following major cyclones, earthquakes and a tsunami. The organisation has built healthcare centres, rebuilt schools and provided clean drinking water and public health facilities.
Until recently Peter Patel had always considered the Palestinian Territories and Israel as being beyond his organisation's reach and had concluded that the challenges were too great and that the leaders would not be interested. However ‘Saving Lives’ was then approached with an offer of a joint partnership arrangement with the ‘Middle East Peace Initiative’ which felt it could help in overcoming any local barriers.
Since then Peter Patel has completed initials visits to Israel and the Palestinian Territories where he and key senior government and community officials fleshed out a basic structure for the project, partnerships, an office, someone to manage the project, and linked it to a local NGO. There are now plans to establish a medical training centre in Hebron in the West Bank and in other cities in the Palestinian Territories and Israel that will function as hubs to train and monitor specialists in other areas.
"The beauty of this is that we can take a doctor from a rural setting and give them a five-day training course in immediate medical care at a centre and they will then be able to save a life or two,” he said. "Backpacks will be issued that contain everything for ABC management - airways, bleeding, CPR and everything else - to stabilize a patient. As long as you have a medical degree you can be trained to do immediate medical care and you'll be able to deal with a significant number of emergencies."
The joint project is to be called 'Saving Lives: Building Futures' and will be a non-political, community initiative in which its medical specialists will be encouraged to work together regardless of their national or religious identities. Saving Lives will train the trainers and help them with equipment for essential emergency medical services, chronic disease management and telemedicine.
"We have the expertise in long distance management but there needs to be local management led by local people who have been identified as open, transparent and trustworthy," explained Peter Patel. "And that is where the Middle East Peace Initiative comes in - they know the people."
Saving Lives attracts a diverse mix of people: nurses, doctors and firemen. It trains them in trauma and advanced management and qualifies them at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. From there they go to post-disaster zones or conflict areas and train local medical specialists to train others. None of it is paid work. Doctors and professors volunteer their time during holidays and so far there hasn’t been the need to employ anyone.
The Saving Lives charity raises its fund from businesses and communities on a project basis through holding dinners and memorabilia and art auctions in such a way that donors know exactly how their funding is to be used. Peter Patel regards this latest project in Israel and Palestine with optimism and points out that there are numerous examples of enemies talking to each other when hit by disasters and suggests that at least some degree of reconciliation might be able to be brought about through health matters.