Locally-made 3D-printed masks help Gaza burn victims

Ahmed Al-Natour spent months recovering from severe burns to his face and body after a fire started in a nearby bakery and swept through a crowd of shoppers last March, killing 25 people.

Now he is venturing out in Gaza wearing a therapeutic mask, which is being 3D-printed 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 facial burn victims to help them heal and prepare some for reconstructive surgery.

For Al-Natour, the mask provides comfort and protection from scarring.

"I learned about this mask through doctors, I tried it and I wore it and it holds tight, it presses on the face tissues and relaxes the face. If I am not wearing it I might scratch my face, with it on, I don't scratch my face, I feel comfortable."

Until recently Gaza burn patients had to travel to Jordan to get the mask. Travel restrictions with the global health crisis have made this journey difficult - in 2020 only two Gaza patients were able to make the trip, compared with 25 in 2019.

For MSF-France's physiotherapy activity manager in Gaza, Abed El-Hamid Qaradaya, the availability of the masks means patients can receive treatment quicker.

"We have made face masks for 23 patients since mid-2020. We have around 10 patients on the list who need this technique. As you know, burns can happen anytime and for any patient who gets face burns, we follow up immediately and add them to the waiting list."