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.
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.
For Sahar Al Nabaheen, the lack of access to regular, high-quality family planning information and services has all but defined her life. At 31, she lives with her husband and their six children in Al Bureij Camp, Middle Area Gaza. Three of Sahar’s pregnancies were unplanned due to a lack of available contraceptives. With her and her husband unable to find work, her family of eight are living on no income.
An oPt Humanitarian Fund success story: Anas Al Maniarawi is a 27-year-old student and aspiring mechanical engineer. He was in his final semester at university when his life was turned upside down. On 18 May 2018, he was hit by live ammunition, during one of the ‘Great March of Return’ (GMR) demonstrations at Israel’s perimeter fence surrounding the Gaza Strip. Anas was shot in his left leg, which had to be amputated below the knee due to muscle and bone damage
In Gaza, severe limb injuries caused by live ammunition have created a substantial burden on the already overstrained health system. Between 30 March 2018 and 31 July 2019, more than 8,000 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition by Israeli forces during the “Great March of Return” (GMR) demonstrations along the fence between Gaza and Israel. According to the oPt Health Cluster, 87 per cent of these are limb injuries, with injuries to the abdomen and pelvis accounting for approximately five per cent.
For the past decade, the Gaza Strip has suffered from a chronic electricity deficit that has undermined already fragile living conditions. The situation deteriorated further after April 2017 due to disputes between the de facto authorities in Gaza and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA), which has been ongoing since the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007. The failure to resolve a longstanding dispute between the two Palestinian authorities on issues related to tax exemption for fuel and revenue collection from electricity consumers resulted in the PA reducing payments for electricity in Gaza. Compounded by a halt in the electricity supply from Egypt due to malfunctioning and inability to repair the feeder lines, this triggered electricity blackouts of 20-22 hours a day. The power shortages had a severe impact on essential services such as health, water and sanitation services, and undermined Gaza’s fragile economy, particularly the manufacturing and agriculture sectors. During this period, the UN coordinated the delivery of donor-funded emergency fuel for generators to ensure the operation of some 250 critical health and WASH facilities.