WHO concerned about increasing health crisis in West Bank

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Sat, 15 Jun 2024 - 01:05 GMT

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Sat, 15 Jun 2024 - 01:05 GMT

A Palestinian man lies on the ground after being shot by Israeli border policemen near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah December 15, 2017 REUTERS

A Palestinian man lies on the ground after being shot by Israeli border policemen near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, near the West Bank city of Ramallah December 15, 2017 REUTERS

CAIRO - 15 June 2024: The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern over the escalating health crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly the West Bank. The organization highlights that attacks on health infrastructure and increasing movement restrictions are obstructing access to healthcare.

 

Since the onset of the war in Gaza, the intensification of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has resulted in the deaths of 521 Palestinians, including 126 children, between October 7, 2023, and June 10, 2024.

 

Additionally, more than 5,200 individuals, including 800 children, have been injured, further burdening the already strained healthcare facilities with increasing demands for trauma and emergency care.

 

As of May 28, WHO has documented 480 attacks on healthcare facilities in the West Bank since October 7, 2023. These attacks have resulted in 16 deaths and 95 injuries, affecting 54 health facilities, 20 mobile clinics, and 319 ambulances. Notably, 95% of these attacks occurred in the cities of Tulkarm, Jenin, and Nablus.

 

These attacks include assaults on health infrastructure and ambulances, detentions of healthcare workers and patients, obstruction of access to health facilities, use of force against healthcare workers, and military inspections of ambulances and personnel.

 

The closure of checkpoints, arbitrary blockades, detention of healthcare workers, increasing insecurity, and the siege and closure of entire towns and communities have severely restricted movement within the West Bank, impeding access to healthcare facilities. Extensive damage to infrastructure and homes, especially in the northern West Bank, has further exacerbated the situation by obstructing ambulance and emergency team access.

 

Between October 2023 and May 2024, 44% of 28,292 requests for medical care outside the West Bank, in East Jerusalem or Israeli healthcare facilities, were rejected or delayed. Access to care is primarily granted for life-saving treatments such as cancer and dialysis. In the same period, 48% of 25,562 companion permit requests were also rejected or delayed.

 

Comparisons between October 2022 to May 2023 and October 2023 to May 2024 show a 56% decrease in patient permit requests and a 22% drop in approvals, along with a 63% decline in companion permit requests and a 24% decrease in approvals. Prior to October 2023, over 300 patients needed permits daily to cross from the West Bank to East Jerusalem and Israeli health facilities.

 

The prolonged financial crisis faced by the Palestinian Authority has severely impacted the healthcare system. This crisis has worsened due to Israel's withholding of tax revenues imposed on the occupied Palestinian territory since October 7, and the general economic deterioration.

 

This financial strain significantly affects healthcare service delivery, with healthcare workers receiving only half of their salaries for nearly a year and 45% of essential medicines running out of stock. Most primary healthcare clinics and specialized outpatient clinics in the West Bank now operate only two days a week, while hospitals function at about 70% capacity.

 

WHO supports the Ministry of Health by purchasing essential medicines and providing technical assistance to address policies and procedures that could help resolve the financial health crisis. Additionally, WHO has pre-positioned supplies in major hospitals across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and has organized community-based training for trauma management among first responders in affected communities to enhance emergency preparedness.

 

However, increasing insecurity, difficulty in emergency responders and field volunteers accessing the injured, and the ongoing imposition of strict curfews pose significant risks to the health system and make it extremely challenging for response teams to reach those in urgent need of care.

 

The WHO calls for immediate and effective protection for civilians and healthcare in the West Bank. The organization emphasizes the need to respect international humanitarian law, which includes upholding the sanctity of healthcare at all times.

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