Officially registered in 2008, the Al-Sadeel Society is a non-governmental organisation that relies heavily on donations it receives from both the local and international communities. Its mission is to enable those in the Palestinian Authority who have cancer to be kept as free from pain as possible by providing professional, high-quality palliative care. Al-Sadeel aims to provide its services free of charge in order that all patients are able to access them regardless of their personal finances.
Ms Dweib explains that elements of cancer care in the Palestinian Authority tend to be good, with specialists in chemotherapy and radiotherapy available at no cost to the patient. However, the quality of life for patients with terminal cancer remains low, with less attention paid to pain management, symptom control and family care.
Therefore, the Al-Sadeel Society’s mission is to cater for these needs; Ms Dweib says that Al-Sadeel looks “at the patient as a whole: psychologically, physically, spiritually and socially.” She passionately believes in maintaining a good quality of life for patients with cancer right up until the end of their lives: “humans should die in dignity, free of pain, free of suffering.”
As well as looking at the patients themselves, Al-Sadeel also cares for families. Ms Dweib explains that families too required dignity, care and love, and often needed someone to talk to about the patient’s illness. Crucially, the society also aims to treat patients in their own homes wherever possible, reducing any additional worries about permits for borders, which benefits both patients and their families.
Al-Sadeel’s work extends beyond the care of individual patients: the society also recruits volunteers to work with patients and their families, with many cancer survivors returning to volunteer their time to help current patients. Furthermore, the society has an agreement with the Ministry of Health to include palliative care into nursing school curriculums and runs workshops in all universities in the West Bank. It is currently working with the universities in order to do more research with the students and to raise awareness of the need for high quality palliative care.
Ms Dweib firmly believes in the work of Al-Sadeel and argues that it is crucial to providing a good service for cancer patients in the Palestinian Authority:
“Chemotherapy [and radiotherapy] is important,” she says, “but the psychological, social and physical support is equal [to] 50% of the treatment. Nobody can tolerate the treatment without the support of a multi-disciplinary team.”