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.
“The dump site here ruined our lives. The air we breathe isn’t clean and the environment we live in isn’t healthy,” said Abu Ahmad, a father of seven, who lives in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, next to an informal dumpsite. “I love Beit Lahia. It used to be an agricultural area, where we could eat what we plant. The water was good as well. Now, the area is damaged, and the aquifer is polluted. I really hate saying this, but I wish I could leave.”
On 19 May 2020, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority (PA) considered itself absolved of all agreements and understandings it has signed with Israel and the United States. This decision was in response to Israel’s announcement of its intention to annex parts of the West Bank as early as 1 July, subject to the “full agreement” of the current U.S. administration. The threat of annexation has been widely condemned by the international community and the UN Secretary-General has stated that annexation “would constitute a most serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-State solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations.”
Ahmed, a 50-year-old father of six from Gaza City, was diagnosed in 2018 with advanced colon cancer. Since then, he has been regularly referred to the August Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem for chemotherapy treatment. The suffering related to his disease has been amplified by the uncertainty of the process required to obtain an Israeli-issued exit permit and the hardships of the travel. “It took me about five hours to reach the hospital. It’s physically and mentally exhausting,” Ahmed explains.
The first fatality from COVID-19 in the oPt recorded in the West Bank on 25 March. Further social and movement restrictions introduced in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) Response Plan for COVID-19 seeks US$34m to prevent further transmission of the virus in the oPt.
On 22 March, the Palestinian Authority imposed a curfew in the West Bank for 14 days, obliging people to stay at home, except for the purchase of food and medicine, or in case of emergency. First two COVID-19 cases detected in Gaza; 1,400 people held in 21 quarantine centers across the Strip in precarious conditions. The COVID-19 Inter-agency Response Plan for the coming three months, is less than 23 per cent funded.
This dusty tent in a remote part of the northern Jordan Valley is normally home to 11 women and girls from the Daragmeh family in Al Maleh herding community in Tubas governorate. But for the past 14 years, for two days a week, it has also periodically functioned as a health clinic, providing primary healthcare to some of the region’s most vulnerable people.