Refugee health care discussion led by Dr. Akihiro Seita

Valerie Maule, Multimedia Contributor

Earlier today, a meeting covering the refugee health care system overseas took place in the Women’s Building.

United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians was the main topic of discussion at the meeting. UNRWA is the source of health care for nearly five-million Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA’s Director of Health Programs, Dr. Akihiro Seita, was present at the event via a video conference call and shared with the attendees the challenges that the health care system faced.

Seita mentioned that there are four main causes of death for Palestinian refugees: diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and cardiovascular complications. However only some of these issues can be addressed.

“We only have health centers, no hospitals,” Dr. Seita said.

A lot of treatments can be given to the Palestinian refugees, however, due to their lack of hospitals if refugee patients have more serious issues when they arrive such as cancer, treatment outside the UNRWA will be needed.

“We don’t have hospitals, therefore we ask for help from the home country’s hospital. Sometimes we help, but it depends on the money we have,” Dr. Seita said.

Dr. Seita recalled a situation when he was interviewing a refugee and had asked him what he wanted to do. His translator, fellow doctor and friend Mohammed was present to translate the refugee’s response. When Dr. Seita asked the refugee what he wanted, the refugee spoke, however the translator hesitated.

“So I ask Mohammed ‘Tell me what is he saying’. He kept it quiet and then he said (translated) to me that “I want my dignity back”, and the reason he couldn’t translate quickly was because this was exactly what he had in his mind and it somehow resonated with him and a feeling that he couldn’t translate, or that he couldn’t tell me quickly,” Dr. Seita said.

A lot of issues come from not only chronic illness, but also mental health issues.

“Depression, especially with gender roles you think of it’s usually the male that’s supporting the wife and the children and they don’t have a job and they are not able to do that. This causes tensions and you know when you’re really stressed out and there’s no way for you to outlet that stress, literally they can’t leave Gaza, it’s small; so what’s sort of the safest, closest place to sort of take that stress out and that anger that you have been holding on and it’s usually the family.”

“What they come for is mental health, but what they really need is jobs” Corvallis community member Valori George said.

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