Offline: The health of Palestinians is a global responsibility

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 09.56.41WHO recently published a report on the health challenges facing people living in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The study, Right to Health 2017, notes that the Gaza Strip has been under land, sea, and air blockade for over a decade. Its health system has experienced de-development and suffers from shortages of essential medicines and supplies. WHO describes how patients in Gaza have faced increased restrictions on accessing care outside the Strip. In 2017, only 54% of applications from 12 153 patients were approved in time for those patients to be able to attend their hospital appointments. This approval rate was the lowest since 2012. Patients living in the West Bank who sought access to services in East Jerusalem or Israel had an 88% approval rate (for 39 834 patients). The most common reason for referral was the treatment and investigation of cancer. For patients living in the West Bank, access to services depends on location. If a patient lives in Area C—that part of the West Bank (61%) directly administered by Israel under the Oslo II Accord—planning restrictions block the construction of health facilities. Some 300 000 Palestinians live in Area C. WHO defines a “health attack” as “any act of verbal or physical violence, threat of violence or other psychological violence, or obstruction that interferes with the availability, access, and delivery of curative and/or preventive health services”. WHO documented 111 health attacks against Palestinian health services in 2017, affecting 133 patients, 43 health workers, 75 ambulances, and 18 health facilities. WHO’s report concludes by emphasising the shared responsibilities for the health of Palestinian people—responsibilities that rest with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and the international community. Gerald Rockenschaub, Head of WHO’s Country Office for the oPt, noted that this latest study “is an opportunity for us to come together, to reflect on these challenges, and to consider strategic actions to bring about meaningful improvements for the health of Palestinians”.

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