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Launch of Right to Health 2016 report

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12 July 2017, Jerusalem – WHO today released its report, Right to Health: Crossing barriers to access health in the occupied Palestinian territory 2016, examining health access barriers for Palestinians living under occupation.  The report was based on data provided by Palestinian Authority ministries and non-profit health providers, as well as patient interviews and field studies.  

Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, Head of WHO West Bank and Gaza, stated: “The right to health is a fundamental right of every human being and the ongoing and enduring occupation is having a detrimental effect on the right to health for Palestinians. Occupation impacts on the underlying determinants of health, such as access to safe drinking-water, adequate sanitation and healthy working and living conditions.  It also severely affects the availability, accessibility and quality of health services.”

In its latest annual report, Right to Health: Crossing barriers to access health in the occupied Palestinian territory 2016, WHO draws attention to a concerning and continuing decline in the approval rates for patient permits to access health care outside of the West Bank and Gaza.  Historical reliance on hospitals and referral centres that now require permits to access, especially those in occupied East Jerusalem, means that patients must navigate burdensome permit application processes and security procedures that result in delays and denial of care for thousands of Palestinian patients every year. In 2016, the permit approval rate for patients was the lowest recorded by WHO since it started monitoring in 2008, with two in every five patients encountering delays or denial of care.

Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, stated: “Patients seeking medical care for grave illnesses are amongst the most vulnerable persons in Palestine today. A minefield of interviews, paperwork, opaque procedures and logistical hurdles stand between a cancer patient and his or her urgent treatment.  The anxieties must be immense and we must do more to smooth their path – we all carry a responsibility to help them realize this fundamental right.”

Dr Rafiq Husseini, Chief Executive Officer of Makassed Hospital, discussed the major barriers facing patients and health care workers alike to reach health institutions in East Jerusalem. Dr Husseini said: “East Jerusalem has always been the hub of referrals for West Bank and Gaza patients and this link is slowly and surely being severed”. Dana Moss, International Advocacy Coordinator for Physicians for Human Rights Israel, spoke on the increasing trend of patients and relatives being called for interrogation and emphasized the freedoms contained within the right to health. She stated: “The right to health is being held hostage to political considerations.”

The WHO report calls on all duty bearers to respect and uphold the right to health for Palestinians. The right to health is an inclusive right, incorporating the underlying determinants of health  It means having access to quality health care without discrimination, including without discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, religion or national origin. It must be protected for all Palestinians.

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