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5 Doctors and Journalists Playing Vital Roles in Gaza’s Humanitarian Crisis

Amid inhuman conditions, doctors and journalists in Gaza play vital roles as one of the biggest humanitarian crises in history takes place. In this issue, we pay homage to their heroic commitment.

Illustration: Maria West

A stalwart of fashion reporting, historically Vogue has always reflected the times, be they bright and hopeful or grim. The end of the First World War saw an illustration of a Red Cross nurse on the cover of Vogue along with the words “Les Blessed.” Then, during the Second World War, British Vogue published images from war photographer and former model Lee Miller. Her coverage of the liberation of Europe offered unique insight into the lasting implications of war as she continued to document its aftermath in Austria, Hungary, and Romania. Her legacy still lives on today, with Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet featured on last month’s Vogue cover to highlight her upcoming film Lee. More recently, to underscore the Russia-Ukraine war, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska was photographed in Kyiv by storied photographer Annie Leibovitz for the October 2022 cover of Vogue magazine. “These have been the most horrible months of my life, and the lives of every Ukrainian,” she stated.

Now, just a year later, it is time for Vogue Arabia to put its focus on innocent civilians and the frontliners of war – the doctors and journalists – who are collectively working day and night to save lives. Thousands of Palestinians, so many among them children, have lost their lives as the battle for the occupied Gaza Strip reaches a furious momentum. With water, medical supplies, electricity, and fuel running out in Gaza, Vogue Arabia honors the courageous men and women at the forefront of this human devastation. These are but a handful of the doctors, journalists, and photographers who are risking their lives day and night to bury the dead, heal the wounded, and show the world the horrors raining down on Gaza.

Motaz Azaiza, Photographer

Illustration: Maria West

“Hi, my name is Motaz, I’m from Gaza. I have no words for you; that is why I’ve risked my life to show you everything I’ve found, everything I’m seeing. Every moment I capture is for you, for the world to take action,” pleads photographer Motaz Azaiza in a video with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on his Instagram account to his more than nine million followers.

Motaz Azaiza shares footage of the destruction with his over nine million Instagram followers

His bird’s-eye view footage has shown the mass destruction of neighborhoods, while more intimate videos have shown him carrying a lifeless baby, ushered into his arms. During the conflict, he also films himself amid Palestinian children holding up peace signs, with the caption: “We teach you life people.”

Azaiza with children in Gaza

Azaiza’s work pre-conflict featured the nuanced beauty of day-to-day life in Palestine. Trips to the market; the portrait of a grandmother, her hair wrapped in a flower-print scarf; children climbing a tree, while a donkey stands nearby. Today, he pushes on, urging the world to help bring medical supplies, and in the distribution of whatever food and water is available. “Every second I feel less sure that I will survive. I’m glad that you are here, but please don’t just watch my content. Please, give now. Thank you and pray for Gaza.”

Plestia Alaqad, Journalist

Illustration: Maria West

“I’m at Al Nassar Hospital right now; there are eight premature babies in the ICU room and about 10 other premature babies in the baby-friendly room. According to the ministry of health, the hospital is expected to work for the upcoming 48 hours,” says Palestinian and Gaza-based journalist Plestia Alaqad, going on to explain that the incubators rely on electricity and fuel.

22-year-old journalist Plestia Alaqad

Prior to the conflict, the 22-year-old Palestinian journalist who oversaw the English Media Club training at Press House documented carefree and happy travels – exploring churches in Cyprus and books at Alserkal Avenue in Dubai.

Alaqad during an October 10 interview with GBNews Breakfast Show

“It’s sad that we reached a point where we are supposed to feel grateful for the 20 humanitarian aid trucks that’ll barely do anything to people as there is a huge shortage of literally everything … It’s been two weeks and till now no news about ceasefire … How many more victims and how many more bombs until the world wakes up?” she asks. At the time of writing, at least 23 journalists have been killed in the Israel-Hamas war, according to Al Jazeera. Former UNWRA journalist Roshidi Sarraj’s last words on social media posted on October 13 read, “We are not leaving … And we will get out of Gaza … To the sky and to the sky only.”

Youmna El-Qunsol, Journalist

Illustration: Maria West

“Since the beginning of this war, thousands of families have come here to Al Shifa Hospital, considering it to be the largest hospital in Gaza City to take refuge … These are many of the families who have lost their homes, who have had their homes bombarded, and who were asked to evacuate their homes,” says journalist Youmna El-Qunsol, correspondent for Al Jazeera, based in the Gaza Strip.

Journalist Youmna El-Qunsol reporting for Al Jazeera

A mother of four young children, she is on the ground each day to bring attention to the ruin besieging Gaza. She spoke to surgeon Dr Al Warda, who said, “Unfortunately, the number of cases is difficult for us to manage all of them at one time. We have a challenge in treating these cases, we have a shortage in electricity and the beds for the patients. Yesterday, there was no water in Al Shifa Hospital. These people are not getting the proper help and the proper medical treatment they need in such circumstances and with such injuries. The situation looks extremely different here in terms of humanity, in terms of saving thousands … most of them are children.”

El-Qunsol celebrating her birthday in happier times

Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, Surgeon

Illustration: Maria West

“My name is Doctor Ghassan Abu-Sittah, I am a plastic and reconstructive surgeon. I’m a British Palestinian volunteer with Doctors Without Borders.” The organization provides emergency medical humanitarian care to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare, and is independent, impartial, and neutral. It states that these codes are not synonymous with silence and is bound by duty to raise its voice and speak out on behalf of its patients in a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah

Doctor Abu-Sittah became one of the leading medical figures in Palestine through viral videos on social media, such as the one where he describes the working conditions at Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza: “In the evening after we finished one of the surgeries, we heard a missile screech, followed by a huge explosion. As a result of the explosion, part of the ceiling of the operating room fell, and as I moved towards the outside of the operating room and towards the emergency department, we could see bodies of children piled up, both dead not moving and wounded. There were several who had been amputated.”

Abu-Sittah holds a press conference outside the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, where hundreds of people were killed in an explosion on October 17

Mohammed Al Ghoula, Doctor

Illustration: Maria West

“We haven’t seen anything like this in our lives. It’s the first time I’ve seen bodies, body parts, children, women. It has a tremendous effect on us,” said Doctor Mohammed Al Ghoula to The New York Times following the explosion in Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City on October 17. The hospitals in Gaza are a refuge for Palestinians, who consider them to be a safe space.

Originally published in the November 2023 issue of Vogue Arabia

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