Occupied Palestinian territory | News | In focus | I couldn't even save my own mother

I couldn't even save my own mother

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Abu Rami, village council member, coordinates medical cases with the Israeli authorities for sick people to leave the “Seam Zone” village of Barta’aAbu Rami, village council member, coordinates medical cases with the Israeli authorities for sick people to leave the “Seam Zone” village of Barta’aThe Israeli Barrier cuts Barta’a off from the rest of the West Bank. The nearest hospital is in Jenin, which is only accessible by crossing a checkpoint. Abu Rami, a member of the village council, is responsible for the coordination of medical cases with the Israeli authorities.

“I remember the day my mother died as if it were yesterday. It was in the summer of 2007. She was old and had had health problems for some time, but during that day her condition deteriorated. I called the Israeli authorities to get permission for an ambulance from Jenin to come and pick her up.

The ambulance arrived at the checkpoint, three kilometres outside our village, in 15–20 minutes. However, the Israeli security guards searched it and ordered it to turn back. Why? I don’t know. They were probably just in a bad mood.

I telephoned my Israeli interlocutors over and over again to get permission for the ambulance to cross. When I realized that my efforts were in vain, I asked for permission to drive my mother to Jenin in my own car. This request was granted. Then, just after we crossed the checkpoint my mother passed away. When I turned around to go home, the guards insisted on searching the car with my dead mother in the back. It felt like they were making fun of me because I hadn’t even driven out of view of the checkpoint.

I deal on almost a daily basis with cases of sick people who need to cross the checkpoint. Anyone who can’t walk needs special coordination with the Israelis, as well as anyone who has to cross during the night when the checkpoint is closed. Pregnant women leave the village weeks before their expected delivery date, just to make sure that they can reach the hospital in time. With the Barrier and the checkpoint, what was a 15-minute drive to or from Jenin now takes about one hour.

My mother was old and I knew she would probably die, but the feeling of helplessness was terrible. I’m the person responsible for medical coordination in Barta’a so I know the procedure and I have all the telephone numbers. Nevertheless, I couldn’t even save my own mother.”

Villages separated from health services by the Wall

Israel constructed the Separation Wall well inside the West Bank in order to enclose Israeli settlements, rather than on the Green Line which demarcates the 1967 borders between Israel and the West Bank. The path of the Wall also separates a number of Palestinian villages and communities from the rest of the West Bank, restricting their access to health and other services. Non residents need to obtain a “visitor permit” to enter these villages, which generally prevents doctors from conducting house calls, ambulances from collecting patients and mobile teams from providing health services there.

''Barta'a is the largest Palestinian village in this zone, with 5600 inhabitants, who used to be visited twice weekly by a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) mobile health team. Since September 2007, UNRWA has been unable to access Barta'a and the mobile health programme has been suspended."

The right to the highest attainable standard of health is enshrined in the 1946 WHO Constitution and numerous human rights instruments. Four criteria make up the right to health: availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality.

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