West Bank vet clinic provides medical services for free

At a tiny vet clinic in the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian veterinarian Rakan Salous was busy treating an injured donkey for free.

“The clinic belongs to Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land of Britain, which helps animals, mainly donkeys, and provides them with free medical treatment services,” Salous told Xinhua.

Salous, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Medicine and had received veterinary training courses in the United Kingdom and Jordan, provides treatment to nearly 600 animals, mostly donkeys, every week.

“Injured and sick animals receive the needed examinations, treatment and medicines for free,” the veterinarian said while disinfecting a donkey’s head injury.

Common injuries, such as those from poor harnessing, overgrown hooves and bad teeth, are easily treatable and go a long way in improving the lives of the animals who work so hard for so little, the doctor said.

He noted that the medical and therapeutic services target all segments of society that have animals, especially farmers in the West Bank, pointing out that 80 percent of the problems facing animals are caused by lack of care.

Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land, a British registered charity, was set up in 2000 to help the thousands of working and abandoned donkeys in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Each month, the organization’s mobile clinic helps around 500 working donkeys, mules and horses across the Palestinian territories.

Inside the clinic, two other people specialized in trimming the hooves of animals work two days a week, while they spend the rest of the days organizing tours for the mobile clinic in the West Bank villages and cities to provide treatment for the animals.

“Turnout at the clinic was weak at the beginning due to the lack of experience among community members, but now we receive large numbers of visitors who seek medical examinations and consultations for their animals,” the veterinarian said.

He explained that awareness has risen dramatically in the Palestinian community, noting that the demand for the clinic’s services has increased among citizens.

Salous pointed out that work at the clinic may continue until midnight in the event of emergency, revealing that the clinic can house the sick or injured animals whose owners are unable to provide a safe environment for medical treatment.

Happiness overwhelmed Thaer Zawatieh, a 43-year-old farmer from Nablus, after he found his way to the permanent clinic to treat his horse, which had suffered an accident that caused a deep head wound.

“I suffered a lot in the past to treat my animals, but the clinic provides services at any time,” Zawatieh told Xinhua, adding that he was not able to go to private vet clinics as that would cost him much money.

“The service is perfect and everything is presented for free. We have always wanted a place like this to help us treat our animals without increasing our financial burdens,” the farmer said.

In addition to treating animals, Salous offers educational training to farmers to learn how to feed their working animals and maintain their health properly.

The training also targets children and school students between 10 and 13 years old to raise their awareness about caring for animals.

For Salous and his teams, things are not rosy as he complained from Israel’s repeated closures of the West Bank, which constitutes the biggest challenge to the clinic’s work.

“These closures prevent farmers from moving between cities and villages,” Salous said, noting that he provides farmers with consolations over the phone whenever Israel imposes closures.

He aspires to establish a clinic in the Gaza Strip to provide treatment for animals in the seaside Israeli-blockaded territory.

“I have received phone calls and messages from people in Gaza asking for medical and treatment advices. They want us to be with them in Gaza,” the veterinarian told Xinhua.