Friday, November 17, 2006

WHO concerned about lack of access to healthcare in occupied Palestine

Statement, World Health Organization, 17 November 2006

"WHO is concerned about the rapid deterioration of Palestinians' equitable access to adequate and effective medical services. This is mainly the result of the Palestinian Ministry of Health's financial crisis which has followed the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. The Government of Israel has stopped handing over the tax and customs revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and international donors have suspended direct aid to the Ministry of Health.

As a consequence of these measures, the PA has been unable to pay regular salaries since March 2006. Health workers employed by the PA have since received provisional allowances through the Temporary International Mechanism established by the European Union . However they joined a general open-ended strike on 23 August demanding full payment of long-overdue salaries and guarantees that salaries in the upcoming months will be paid.

According to media reports, unions representing health professionals in the West Bank have announced that as of 15 November public medical services will be further restricted. This will affect people requiring emergency care, chronic patients and deliveries of newborns as Primary Health Centers will be closed down and emergency rooms at public hospitals will stop operating.

"WHO is very concerned about the announced reduction of services and the deterioration of vital medical services. This will further exacerbate the already difficult humanitarian situation affecting Palestinian lives and their right to enjoy the highest possible level of physical and mental health, " said WHO's Head of Office, Ambrogio Manenti.

WHO calls on the parties concerned to work to reach an agreement that will guarantee Palestinians' access to essential medical services during the strike.

WHO also urges the international community to support the Palestinian public health sector in this critical phase. In its statement of 20 September 2006, the Quartet noted that the resumption of transfers of tax and customs revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA would have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy. "

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