Suspension of Aid Has Led to a Serious Deterioration in Access to Health Care for Palestinians

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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MSF points to the impact on the health of the people in the Occupied Territories

Jerusalem-Barcelona, Septemeber 21, 2006 — The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is concerned about the deteriorating access to medical treatment for the population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in particular in the Hebron district in the West Bank.

Jerusalem-Barcelona — The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is concerned about the deteriorating access to medical treatment for the population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in particular in the Hebron district in the West Bank.

Since major international donors (namely US, EU, Japan, Canada) suspended their financial support to the Palestinian Authority, the social and economic situation in the territories has decreased to a precarious level. One visible consequence of the funding cuts to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) is a critical shortage of drugs and medical materials, in spite of direct donations made by different agencies.

The situation has worsened since MoH staff began a strike on August 29. This was another consequence of the budget cuts, since the staff has not been paid since March, except for some partial allowances.

In Hebron, the effects of the strike are particularly evident. As elsewhere in the West Bank, only emergency services for the most severe cases are assured—even the maternity wards are closed—and the 112 MoH primary health care centers are closed. In Hebron and in Nablus, all MoH pharmacies are closed, although they do give out a few emergency medicines such as insulin. People's access to the health services and to drugs has therefore been dramatically reduced. Although private pharmacies are open, the poorest cannot afford to buy drugs. MSF is concerned about the overall impact on the health of the population if the current situation continues.

MSF teams have been monitoring the situation closely and since April have made periodic donations to hospitals in the Gaza Strip and in Hebron. In August, in response to the increasing shortages, MSF opened a consultation room in Hebron where poor patients can receive certain essential medicines for severe chronic pathologies. Due to the strike, these patients are now unable to buy any of their medication; therefore MSF will widen the range of drugs it supplies to allow patients to continue their treatment.

Once again, MSF wishes to express its concern about the repercussions that the political decision to suspend aid to the Palestinian Authorities is having on a population which is already suffering from an almost total paralysis of its economy and from the movement restrictions inside the Territories.

Since 1989, MSF has been working in the Occupied Palestinian Territories responding to the medical consequences of the conflict. Since 2000, MSF's focus has been on providing psychological care, supplemented by medical and social support to families suffering from acute trauma and lack of access to health care. Today, MSF teams work in Nablus, Hebron, and Gaza.