Declining health services in the Palestinian territories: an ICRC report
Since the beginning of 2006, the ICRC has repeatedly warned of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories. An ICRC report issued today documents the tragic consequences that the interruption of essential health services has had on the Palestinian population. A key finding is that it is the poor, whose numbers are increasing because of the overall economic decline, who are predominantly affected by the current interruption of health services.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) increased its assistance act ivities as a response to the increasing health needs that resulted from the suspension of funding imposed on the Palestinian Authority (PA) by the Quartet and Israel. In particular, the ICRC supported four hospitals and 30 Primary Health Care centres (PHC) of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), and paid the salaries of PRCS medical staff. In addition, the ICRC has sought to alleviate serious gaps in the drugs and disposables Ministry of Health (MoH) sectors.
In August, the ICRC initiated a process of support to all the MoH surgical hospitals by providing drugs and disposables to the Central Medical Stores (CMS) in Gaza and the West Bank (WB). These drugs specifically target emergency life-saving treatments.
The PA health staff went on strike on 23 August in protest for not having received their salaries for six months. In Gaza, the strike has not been supported as widely as in the WB and health services there are functioning at approximately 80%.
The European Union (EU), under the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM), provides social allowances equivalent to a percentage of health workers'salaries since July. It has extended this support until the end of 2006. However, health workers request that all retrospective salaries be paid in full before they return to work.Access of the population to hospitals and Primary Health Care (PHC) clinics is now severely compromised.