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Health and Nutrition
The health system in occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is operating under severe pressure due to the effects of the occupation, blockade, rapid population growth, and lack of adequate financial resources and shortages in basic supplies. In the Gaza Strip, years of blockade and movement restrictions on people and materials, including medical resources, compounded by the internal Palestinian divide, have led to a serious deterioration in the availability and quality of health services. The 2014 hostilities added further strain to the health sector. In the West Bank, the key concern is lack of access to quality and affordable health services. Many communities, particularly in Area C, face restricted access to basic health care as a result of insecurity due to the presence and actions of Israeli checkpoints and settler violence. Restrictions on the freedom of movement of patients and ambulances is a particular concern for those seeking specialized treatment in East Jerusalem hospitals.
Articles, statements and press releases
On 17 April, Gaza’s sole power plant (GPP) was forced to shut down completely after exhausting its fuel reserves and being unable to replenish them due to a shortage of funds. Prior to this, the GPP was operating at only approximately half of its capacity, producing nearly 30 per cent of the electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip. On 20 April, electricity supply from Egypt, which accounts for 15 per cent of Gaza’s supply, also came to a halt due to technical malfunctioning that is yet to be repaired. Gaza is currently supplied only with electricity purchased from Israel (some 55 per cent of the previous supply), resulting in electricity blackouts of 20 hours per day, up from 12 hours previously, further undermining the delivery of basic services.
Flash Update: In the aftermath of the killing of a Hamas member on 24 March in Gaza City by unknown assailants, the Palestinian de facto authorities in Gaza are imposing new access restrictions, citing security reasons, which are negatively impacting already vulnerable sectors in Gaza. These restrictions are taking place before the upcoming Israeli national and religious holidays when the opening hours of the Israeli-controlled passenger and goods crossings are normally reduced.
At this month’s meeting of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), a high-level, biannual donor meeting, the Israeli authorities announced their intention to establish a new electricity line into the Gaza Strip. The line could supply an extra 100 megawatts (MW) of electricity, almost doubling the current supply from Israel. The announcement did not include an implementation time frame. In the meantime, the provision of basic services across the Gaza Strip remains severely hampered by the longstanding electricity deficit.
As part of a ‘separation policy’ to separate West Bank Palestinians from Palestinians in Gaza, the Israeli authorities prohibit the passage of Palestinians in and out of Gaza. Exceptions are made for certain categories, principally businesspeople and traders, medical patients and their companions, and employees of international organizations issued with Israeli permits. During the easing of access restrictions following the 2014 hostilities, the number of Palestinians from exceptional categories crossing through Erez more than doubled in 2015 compared to the previous year. Nevertheless, numbers remain significantly lower than at the start of the second intifada in 2000, when some 26,000 Palestinians crossed Erez daily for wider purposes. In 2016, data for July show a 15 per cent decline in exits from Gaza versus the monthly average for the first half of the year, with a 27 per cent decline in the number of exits for businesspeople and traders.
In early July 2014, the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Gaza’s struggling health sector was near to collapse due to the severe shortages of medicines, medical disposables and fuel, and the lack of capacity to expand services to meet population needs. In the days and weeks following that warning, the health sector was confronted with over 11,200 injuries, among them more than 3,800 children, which is the highest number of injuries for such period of time it had ever faced. The challenge to the health system posed by the 2014 hostilities has extended into the present; approximately 900 of those injured sustained some form of permanent disability and require continued attention, while a significant part of the health infrastructure was damaged.
At the end of January, UNRWA completed a comprehensive revision of the contents of its food assistance rations aimed at improving them against three main criteria: (i) health and nutritional values; (ii) public acceptability and local food habits; (iii) availability and logistical practicalities. The new baskets will be launched during the April-June food distribution round for all 960,000 beneficiaries.