World News

Gaza burn victims get 3D-printer face masks made close to home

GAZA (Reuters) - Ahmed Al-Natour was working at his Gaza market shoe stall when a fire started in a nearby bakery and swept through a crowd of shoppers last March.

Twenty-five people were killed and Natour, 34, suffered severe burns to his face and other parts of his body. Back home after months in hospital, he is venturing out wearing a therapeutic mask now being made locally for the first time.

Using a 3D scanner in its clinic and a 3D printer owned by a Gaza business, Medecins Sans Frontieres-France provides compressive masks for Gaza facial burn victims to help them heal and prepare some for reconstructive surgery.

The transparent masks are made of solid plastic materials imported from France that help soften tissues and prevent complications such as scarring.

“I feel comfortable when I wear it, and it relaxes the face. It is easy to use, and I go shopping while wearing it,” Natour said, as he wore the mask fastened with elastic straps.

In the past, 3D masks were available for burn patients in Gaza only when they travelled to Jordan for reconstructive surgery.

Coronavirus travel restrictions have made such journeys difficult, with only two Gaza patients able to make the trip in 2020 compared with 25 in 2019.

Abed El-Hamid Qaradaya, MSF-France’s physiotherapy activity manager in Gaza, said at one of the organisation’s clinics that the masks had made a major difference for some patients.

“We have made face masks for 23 patients since the middle of 2020, and they helped to transform their lives,” he said.

Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Mike Collett-White