Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gazans Turn to Bee Venom Therapy

Bees Provide Pain Relief in Beleaguered Gaza

GAZA CITY (AFP, 11/14/09) - In a clinic in the beleaguered Gaza Strip, Ratib Samur makes his way from one patient to the next armed with little more than a small box filled with enraged bees.

He uses the bees to sting those who have come to him for help -- and amid the territory's deepening isolation, his clinic has been transformed into a hive of activity.

Since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007 the coastal enclave has been sealed off from all but vital aid by both Israel and Egypt, limiting the ability of Gazans to seek medical care abroad.

It has meant growing demand for Samur's bee venom treatment.

"The bee stings are really great," says Mohammed al-Dayya, paralyzed from the waist down because of muscular atrophy.

The 25-year-old used to be treated in Egypt, but has had to resort to the bees because of the closures. Confined to Gaza, he wheels himself into Samur's clinic each week to get stung, which he says has stabilized his condition.

"I no longer have this pain that used to keep me from sleeping," he said during a recent session. "This treatment made my condition stable and now it won't get worse before I am able to travel."

Most claims of apitherapy, the medical use of bee venom, are anecdotal and have not been proved to the satisfaction of scientists, although believers say it help relieve pain from multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis and certain other ailments.

Bee stings however also entail risks of serious allergic reactions, and of course the process of getting stung is not one most people would enjoy, at Samur's clinic, patients often get four to six stings a time.

Samur admits his treatment is no substitute for advanced medical care.

"I cannot help him walk again, but my treatment basically focuses on easing the pain and preventing his condition from deteriorating further," said Samur, who studied agricultural engineering in Egypt.

When the 53-year-old opened the clinic in 2003 after testing out bee venom treatments on his family and friends, he was greeted with skepticism.

"It became more acceptable when I got brilliant results from the treatment with a number of patients, and it increased even more after the Israeli siege," he said.

Israel generally allows people to leave Gaza for emergencies but grants only a limited number of permits for medical treatment abroad.

The lack of medical options and the economic crisis gripping the territory has sent hundreds of men, women and children flocking to Samur's clinic, where he pricks them with bees raised in dozens of backyard hives.

A course of three injections costs just $2.50 dollars.

Many of his patients suffer from wounds inflicted during Israel's assault on Gaza at the turn of the year aimed at halting Palestinian rocket attacks. Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed before the fighting ended on January 18…

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