Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Israeli denial of Gaza exit permits kills six cancer patients in two months


By Rhiannon F. - October 03, 2017
TAGS:
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Health Care] [Gaza]

Six cancer patients have died since August after being denied travel outside of the Gaza Strip for treatment. This totals 30 fatalities in Gaza alone for 2017, making it the worst year on record.

Those affected in the last two months were Palestinian women fighting breast cancer. While this is the most treatable form of cancer, as few as 40 per cent of women in Palestine will live past five years after being diagnosed compared to 81 per cent in the United Kingdom.

Of the six, Faten Ahmed is the youngest aged just 26 at the time of dying from a rare neuroectodermal tumour. To access the most advanced Palestinian hospitals, located in East Jerusalem, permits to exit Gaza need to be approved by the Israeli Government.

The Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza stated Ahmed first applied for a permit on 24 November 2016 to visit Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH). This request was delayed by the Israeli authorities on grounds of a 'security check.’ Two further requests were delayed with the fourth being rejected.

With her fifth attempt she was allowed to cross Erez checkpoint between Gaza and Israel on 20 April 2017. AVH recommended four consecutive chemotherapy sessions though Ahmed was never allowed reentry. She passed away in August this year.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) Advocacy and Campaigns Director, Neil Sammonds believes this is declared collective punishment by Israel. “It is a policy intended to squeeze Gaza’s two million population,” Sammonds told Palestine Monitor.

Applications to exit Gaza must be submitted ten days before a hospital appointment. Patients are only notified the evening before travel if they have been approved. Often though, the waiting time can drag on for weeks or months, forcing the patient to lose their appointment.

The success rate for approval of exit permits was at an all time low in 2016, with only 64% of applications approved, compared to 92% in 2012. The process of obtaining permits, as stated by the World Health Organisation is “neither transparent or timely.” The Israeli authorities reject applications with little explanation, simply deemed security reasons.

If a patient is granted an exit permit, further delays are met at the border. An average 24 minute waiting time at checkpoints into Israel will be endured. The Palestinian ambulance will be searched, then the patient transfers to an Israeli registered ambulance.

Since Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2007, access to medical treatment, supplies and professional training has been severely limited. Patients from Gaza and the West Bank collectively make up 50% of those in East Jerusalem hospitals.

Services Gaza patients can only access in Jerusalem include; cardiac surgery, specialist oncology treatment, children’s dialysis, specialist rehabilitation services and complex eye surgery.

Sammonds highlighted the most advanced hospitals were historically in Jerusalem. “This being no problem, assuming people in Gaza were able to access them,” Sammonds stated.

As the Occupying Power, Israel is responsible for the health and welfare of the Palestinian people under international humanitarian law. 

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