Saturday, February 06, 2010

Bee Venom Therapy Popular in Gaza

Blockade Forces Gaza to Turn from Modern Medicine to Bee Stings
Erin Cunningham, The National (UAE), 2/5/2010

GAZA CITY // …With a health system crippled by the Israeli economic blockade, which the United Nations says causes unnecessary delays for the import of vital medical equipment, the residents of Gaza are increasingly turning to cheaper, more accessible methods of alternative medicine to cure their ailments.

A local beekeeper who runs a clinic using bee stings as a treatment in Gaza City said because of the blockade, he now sees upwards of a hundred patients each day. Also in the city, a pharmacist self-trained in traditional Chinese medicine said his business is growing in the wake of last year’s war, in which health facilities here sustained considerable damage.

“When we’re faced with the situation we have today with the healthcare system, where medicine and equipment are in short supply, and people don’t have access, it’s only logical they will turn towards alternative medical practices in order to get better,” said the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) national health officer in Gaza, Mahmoud Daher…

At the home of Ratib Ibrahim Samour, this local beekeeper and his wife, Umm Ibrahim, move from patient to patient, gripping plastic jars swarming with honeybees. Mr Samour pinches one of the bees, squirming and wings flapping furiously, with a pair of tweezers, and stings a young girl wearing a hearing aid on the back of her ear.

“I treat people for deafness, eyesight, sinus infections, pain,” said Mr Samour, who opened the clinic in 2003 and has since trained his wife and two oldest children to treat people with the bees. “The venom of the bee activates the natural cortisone in the body, and this can help with many things, many sicknesses.”

Kamal Ruka, from the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, needs a spinal operation in the coming months. But he cannot afford both the operation and the pain relief medication he needs while he waits for the surgery. Mr Ruka comes in every four to six weeks, he said, to be stung 15 times to alleviate the pain. It costs him just 10 shekels per session, while prescription drugs cost him 50 shekels per week, he said.

“I started coming to the clinic about a year ago, and I feel 100 per cent better,” Mr Ruka said. “The pain from the bee is nothing compared to the pain I have.”

Mr Samour said he often turns patients away, however, because his bee-sting method is no substitute for modern medicine. He always asks patients what their real doctor’s diagnosis is first.

But because conventional drugs are often too expensive or in short supply, people are faced with no other choice but to seek out alternative healers…

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