A WREXHAM doctor has trekked 100 kilometers across a war-torn stretch of land in the Middle East to visit emergency health clinics and camp with a desert tribe.

Rhiannon Lewis, from Trefnant, was one of 29 activists for Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) who travelled to the West Bank in Palestine to raise awareness of the poor health care facing the country amid ongoing conflict with Israel.

She had been to the region before, living in Jerusalem during her gap year three decades ago when she volunteered with the ambulance service. However, the Wrexham Maelor Hospital doctor found upon arriving in Palestine in March this year that the situation had become “far worse” since her last visit.

The trek started in Nablus and the party, led by two experienced guides, journeyed over the Palestine hills – “more rocky and treacherous” than the Clwydian Range where Dr Lewis had trained – to the cities of Jericho and Hebron, before ending in the historic East Jerusalem.

“The heat was challenging with long days, little shade and temperatures in the 30s,” she said. “One team member was hospitalised because of dehydration and, due to the healthcare facility being overstretched, they were transferred to a private hospital.”

This is an option that much of the Palestinian population does not have, however.

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“For huge numbers of Palestinians, access to health care is limited,” Dr Lewis said. “Not only due to funding issues but geographically as many people can’t get access to hospitals.”

The lack of treatment has resulted in deaths, pregnancies at the roadside and sick children being separated from their families. The trekkers met with a team of medics who run a mobile clinic that provides treatment for rural areas with no access to health care.

Dr Lewis said: “That was inspiring, seeing passionate dedicated professionals risking their safety to deliver care to the most marginalised of society.”

Despite the bleak situation, Dr Lewis said the party’s evenings “were full of usually decent showers, great food, some drink and much laughter”.

They also had the privilege to spend a night camping with a Bedouin desert tribe.

“It was a really special night in the wilderness. We ate a wonderful evening meal prepared for us, called maqluba. It is a chicken and rice dish with aubergine, cooked in a massive saucepan, then flipped over and served on a huge platter with homemade yogurt.”

But they were reminded of the continued war in Gaza. “From the desert could see the explosions lighting up the night sky. It was horrifying.”

The doctor and mum raised £3,000 for MAP but also gained wisdom that could direct her future endeavours.

“I reflected on the huge disparities between our culture and theirs –family bonds, work culture and how possessions are valued. There was a lot of time to reflect sitting under the vast desert sky.”

She said that the stories of the Palestinian people she encountered during the trek “will stay with me for life,” adding: “I hope to return to use my skills as a doctor in the West Bank.”