Osama Radi
July 27, 2010 - 12:00am

The four-year-old Gaza boy Noor stuttered when he tried to utter the word "baba". A deaf specialist, sitting next to him, was teaching him to say the easy word, hoping to help the boy leave the world of silence.

Noor and another eight hearing-impaired children were in one room with their specialist mentor who produced several musical sounds and slowly moved her tongue and lips to teach them the correct pronunciation of the early childhood expressions.

The kids had just gone through a small operation of inserting electronic shells behind their ears, which was expected to recover their hearing and help them use verbal language instead of the body one.

They usually gather at the Gaza-based el-Amal Association for Deaf Children for rehabilitation. Established under the efforts of the kids' parents, doctors and experts, it is the first association specialized in treating hearing-impaired children in the Gaza Strip.

The el-Amal, currently treating 55 such kids, was founded two months ago, and has two branches in the Gaza Strip which has been under a tight Israeli blockade since June 2007.

Samir Islim, who runs the association, told Xinhua that they came up with the idea of founding the association when they saw hearing-impaired children, after going through the operation of planting the electronic shells behind their ears, need scientific and well-organized rehabilitation.

He said "the hearing-impaired kids and their parents had faced a real complex situation after the operation, mainly in helping the kids to integrate into the society and enable them to hear and speak normally.

The association depends on the parents' financial contributions to aid the specialists in carrying out the daily training courses.

Om Salah Al-leban, whose child is rehabilitating in the el-Amal association, said she learnt the science of pronunciation by herself when she found the disability of her child. She added that her child had gone through the surgery of planting an electronic shell.

"I was very happy when I heard about the association, and I decided to send my child there," she said, adding the association has made a great progress in teaching the kids to hear and speak correctly.

Palestinian officials said that the Gaza Strip, which has a population of 1.5 million, has seen an increasing number of hearing impaired children. They added that there are around 25,000 hearing-impaired people in the impoverished enclave, and most of them are not able to get a proper treatment.

The high rate are mainly attributable to genetics problems and marriage among close relatives, in addition to the lack of medicines, vaccines and specialized physicians.

The ongoing violence, especially the three-week-long war with Israel, contributes to the increase of deafness cases. A number of Arab doctors, who had managed to arrive in Gaza recently, had helped dozens of impaired children.

The doctors, who came from the United Arab Emirates, had successfully managed to plant electronic shells in the disabled children's ears. Officials with the health ministry in the Gaza Strip had recently applied to the UAE medical team to visit Gaza again and help another 100 deaf children.


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