Report on Palestinian Health Care releasedMarch 6, 2009 • By Zahir Janmohamed
Lancet, a British public health journal, released yesterday a series of reports entitled Health in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which examine the health situation in the West Bank and Gaza. The five reports cover the status of health in the OPT, maternal and pediatric health, common diseases, health as a security issue, and a health-care system assessment for the occupied Palestinian territories and take into consideration issues such as security, the availability of resources, the various conflicts between Israel and Palestinian organizations, the blockade of Gaza, and the occupation of Israeli troops. The series was compiled as a joint effort by health scientists in the OPT, together with help from WHO, associated UN agencies, and academic institutions in the USA, UK, Norway, and France.
It makes claim that the security threats to the region originate, at least partially, in constraints imposed by Israel such as checkpoints and border closings which prevent access for patients and medics, create a shortage of medical supplies, and “affect every aspect of Palestinian life, such as the ability to travel, work, marry, study, worship, and be with family…[thereby] compromis[ing] the social determinants of health by increasing social exclusion, unemployment, and creating barriers to food, social support and transport.
The reports also discuss how the armed conflicts in the area have negative mental health impacts in children. Studies done even before the recent conflict illustrated the traumatic effects that witnessing brutally violent acts can have on children, resulting in “behavioral problems, fears, speech difficulties, anxiety, anger, sleeping difficulties, lack of concentration at school, and difficulties in completing homework. In order to solve the health crisis in the region, the series calls for a just political and economic solution, claiming that if international laws were respected and enforced, they could “protect Palestinians from insecurity
The full series can be found at www.thelancet.com(free registration is required).