Humanitarian Health Action

The occupied Palestinian territory: providing health care despite the lack of a stable environment

Monthly Highlights - February 2011

A nurse working at El Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, Gaza City.
Shareef Sarhan/WHO
A nurse working at El Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital, Gaza City.

Restrictions on access and movement

The situation in the occupied Palestinian territory is characterized by years of occupation, political stalemate, violence, restrictions on access and movement and persistent human rights violations.

The barrier in the West Bank and the permit regime limit access to the specialized hospitals in East Jerusalem.

The health system is fragmented due to a large number of health providers.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health faces particular difficulties in providing services to people living in rural areas of the West Bank, so-called “Area C.”

The health system in Gaza

The health system in Gaza – physically separated from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory – has been severely affected by the blockade which has been in place since 2006 and by the political divide between the West Bank and Gaza.

  • Recurrent power cuts and an unstable power supply affect medical care;
  • The functionality of medical equipment has been deteriorating because of inadequate maintenance capacity and spare parts;
  • There are also shortages of essential drugs.

Deterioration in the quality of care

These limitations have lead to a deterioration in the quality of care. A high number of patients are referred outside the Gaza Strip for specialized care although the movement of people in and out of Gaza is heavily restricted.

In 2010, almost one out of five applications for patients to leave Gaza to go to hospitals in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Israel and Jordan was denied or delayed by the Israeli authorities.

Despite these challenges, the public health system in the West Bank and Gaza is relatively well developed and is able to provide a full range of health services to the population.

WHO’s main focus and activities

The WHO office for West Bank and Gaza – located in East Jerusalem with a sub-office in Gaza city – provides technical support to the Palestinian Ministry of Health to strengthen the health system.

The main projects are in the field of mental health, health cluster coordination, maternal and neonatal health, quality assurance for the East Jerusalem hospitals and global fund projects for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

WHO also advocates for the Palestinians’ right to health, for example in relation to access to specialized health care.

In Gaza, the office plays a key role in coordinating and supporting health partners providing humanitarian assistance to the health sector and in addressing immediate needs for example through drugs procurement and management of medical equipment.

For more information on the health situation in the occupied Palestinian territory