Tuesday, October 23, 2018

An uncertain future for West Bank mobile clinics


By Ruth Regan - February 19, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS)] [UNRWA] [Trump] [medical supplies]

The Trump Administration’s announcement last month of a substantial cut of UNRWA funding continues to loom over Palestinian lives and plunges organisations into desperate planning procedures. 

Mobile clinics make up just one fraction of UNRWA services, alongside education, social, infrastructure, microfinance and other health services.
 
3.1 million refugees rely on UNRWA health services.
 
Falling within that, UNRWA conducts 13,000 medical consultations via mobile clinics each month. This provides primary care services for at least 150 communities across the West Bank which are isolated by checkpoints, the wall, closures and demolitions.
 
Whilst other organisations such as the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) also provide mobile clinic services, they do not hold the capacity of UNRWA.
 
A UNRWA doctor from Shu’fat camp, Dr. Salim Anati, told Palestine Monitor; “the support must go to UNRWA for its great programs and projects, other organizations will not be able to do UNRWA work.”
 
“If other [organisations] will replace [the health programs] it's a big general national problem of existence of refugees and they must refuse to increase their workload,” Anati said.
 
Once a week, PMRS take a mobile clinic to Jabal al Baba, a small village of about 40 Bedouin families east of Jerusalem. The community moved there after they were displaced from the Negev desert. Jabal al Baba falls within Israel’s E1 plan, illegal under international law, to build a continuous urban bloc from Jerusalem to the Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adumim. At the end of last year the entire community were faced with eviction notices.
 
“We live in prison here. We are under imminent threat of expulsion,” said resident Abu Mohammed. “They want to gather all the Bedouins together and throw us into the desert somewhere.”
 
On one particular Tuesday, the PMRS mobile clinic team, consisting of one doctor and two nurses, arrived at Jabal shortly after 10am. There was just time to prop open metal briefcases filled with medications before the first patients began to gather in the makeshift cabin waiting room.
 
From the opening of the session, a constant flow of patients arrive, a cross-section of the approximate 320 residents of the village. Eight people are seen within the first 60 minutes. In a feat of paperwork, the team have a bursting folder with medical histories of all the families and systemise inputting notes on a laptop as they go.
 
PMRS Team offering healthcare in a makeshift clinic in a village near Bethlehem
 
Some mothers use the opportunity to have multiple children seen to on one visit, considering their limited contact with health professionals.
 
The team treat everything from a baby with bronchitis to a four year old with a badly bruised face to ailments of an elderly, but resolutely cheerful, man in a red keffiyeh.
 
Whilst the team of three are incredibly efficient, conditions are not ideal.
 
They are using a guest house cabin, in a room with bunk beds and a kitchenette, sat around a table with just a single heater.
 
The electricity cuts out and needs reconnecting three times during the clinic.
 
Nothing about this set-up resembles a GP surgery.
 
Nurses Mayamy and Nabeela keep things moving smoothly as they document patients
 
And now even this less than sufficient provision of mobile clinics is under threat.
 
The World Health Organization (WHO) Director of the West Bank and Gaza, Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, coordinates the distribution of medical services in the region and advises bodies such as the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
 
“It is absolute essential that UNRWA can continue their essential services,” Rockenschaub told Palestine Monitor.
 
“UNRWA is the main provider of mobile clinics in Area C.”
 
WHO has overseen the securing of funding for UNRWA services until June. Beyond that, nothing is certain.
 
“What we have been doing has been trying to map out the current capacities of all the providers who provide mobile clinics to discuss also with the Ministry what could be the alternative. Just to have some sort of planning scenario,” said Rockenschaub.
 
“We have been discussing with some of the other providers like PMRS whether some further collaboration could have potential to absorb some of the burden but frankly many of them have very limited capacity and I think nobody’s really in a position to replace UNRWA at all.”
 
UNRWA have launched a global fundraising campaign under the hashtag #DignityIsPriceless in order to continue their services.

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