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Averting a humanitarian health crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory


13 June 2006

The health sector in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is currently facing an acute funding crisis mainly because of the recent interruption or reduction of support from major donors and delays in transfer of tax revenues. Urgent action is required in order to avert a humanitarian crisis.

The crisis is seriously affecting the ability of the Palestinian Ministry of Health to deliver critical health care services and maintain public health programmes. The Ministry of Health is responsible for more than 60% of all primary health care centres and hospital beds in the oPt and for almost half of all maternity beds. It is also responsible for most public health programmes. In several governorates, it is the sole health service provider. These vital services must be maintained if a humanitarian health crisis is to be averted.

Due to the funding crisis, staff have not received salaries since March. Absenteeism among health workers is reportedly on the rise. Primary health care centres and hospitals are running out of essential drugs. Several governorates are experiencing fuel shortages and are thus unable to provide normal vaccination services.

In response to World Health Assembly Resolution 59.3, agreed at the May 2006 Assembly, WHO organized a meeting on 12 June 2006 to review the current health situation in the oPt and identify ways of averting a humanitarian health crisis. Participants included technical staff from the Ministry of Health, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Bank, donors and other agencies.

At this meeting, WHO suggested the creation of an interim, urgent, funding mechanism to prevent any disruption of basic services and bridge the current gaps in the delivery of health services and public health functions in the oPt. A more elaborate proposal will be developed with partners in the next two weeks.

In the meantime, WHO will continue to work with potential donors to respond to urgent needs.

For more information contact:

Daniel Lopez Acuna
Director, Recovery and Transition Programmes
Health Action in Crisis
Telephone: +41 22 791 5868
E-mail: LopezAcunaD@who.int

Christine McNab
Communications Officer
Director-General's office
Telephone: +41 22 791 4688
Mobile: +41 79 254 6815
E-mail: mcnabc@who.int

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