Sunday, November 29, 2020

‘Unprecedented’ attacks on healthcare in Palestine: WHO 2018 report

By K. Künzl - October 16, 2019
Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Human rights] [Health Care]

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a report on Wednesday detailing an “an unprecedented 432 attacks against healthcare in the West Bank and Gaza Strip”.

Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, Head of WHO office in the occupied Palestinian territories, spoke at the launch event in Ramallah, remarking the sustainability of healthcare services as challenging in the West Bank and Gaza due to “chronic occupation” and “fragmentation” of the population.  

Rockenschaub also attributed this challenge to Palestinians’ restriction of movement that greatly hinders access to healthcare.

The report entitled Right to Health in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: 2018, is updated annually and highlights the numerous obstacles faced by Palestinians in attaining adequate healthcare living under occupation.

A WHO report released in 2018 with a summary of 2017’s healthcare attacks “marked the lowest rate of approval for exit permits by the Israeli Authorities for patients seeking to leave Gaza to access medical treatment elsewhere in the oPt – the West Bank, including East Jerusalem – and abroad” Medical Aid for Palestinians reiterated.

“With a mere 54 per cent of patient permit applications approved in time to attend hospital appointments,” the report stated.

A study conducted by the WHO revealed that “Palestinians living under Israel occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are exposed to high levels of violence”.

The study also revealed that in 2018 alone, 299 Palestinians were killed and 31,723 were injured “in occupation-related violence” over 80 per cent of both occurring in the Gaza Strip.

With over 6,000 live ammunition injuries in Gaza alone over the year, an already strained health care system is overwhelmed. 

Additionally, as over half of conflict-affected children may be affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, the public health system lacks the resources to provide psychological assistance. 

Health staff are also prevented from administering proper medical care, “In Gaza alone, three health workers were killed and 570 injured, 41 with live ammunition,” the WHO reported, all whilst trying to aid the wounded during the Great March of Return.

“When I remember the events of that day, it makes me very sad. Even us health workers – carrying out our humanitarian work and clearly marked with our PRCS vests – were targeted with live ammunition,” Zeiad, a first responder with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, (PRCS) told the WHO.

Citizens of the Bedouin communities are continually the most vulnerable and reliant on minimally equipped mobile clinic services because they are located in Area C where planning restrictions prevent the development of permanent or semi-permanent structures, including health facilities,” a 2017 WHO report highlighted. 

Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, discussed his concern for “access to water and sanitation, high rates of poverty, unemployment and food insecurity and insecure housing, demolitions and displacement” in the oPt.

“No patient should have to worry about being prevented from accessing essential and lifesaving treatments, whether access to health facilities requiring Israeli-issued permits or access to essential medicines within Palestinian health facilities. No health worker should have to go to work with the fear of being shot at and killed,” McGoldrick stated.

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