Healthcare by security permit

February 11, 2017
Sarah Benton

New MAP briefing exposes barriers to Palestinian healthcare

Press release from MAP 
10 February 2017

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI) have today co-launched the first in a series of briefings exploring how Israel’s occupation affects the health and dignity of Palestinians.

This first volume exposes how barriers to freedom of movement imposed by Israel are preventing some Palestinian patients from being able to access centres of vital care. These barriers include the bureaucratic control of movement imposed by Israel’s permit regime, and physical barriers of the network of checkpoints which control access into and out of Gaza, the west Bank and East Jerusalem.

With many medical specialties such as radiotherapy and heart surgery only available in Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem, it is vital that patients and their companions are able to travel there unimpeded. This is especially true for patients in Gaza, where the health sector has been severely damaged by almost a decade of blockade, separation from the West Bank, and repeated conflict.

In 2016, the rate of approvals for permits to leave Gaza for treatment outside the territory dropped to its lowest level in seven years, with a third of patients delayed or denied by the Israeli authorities over the year.

“The very idea that a fence, a wall, a security guard, a bureaucrat could stand between you and such life-saving services should fill us all with a shared sense of dread.”

Robert Piper, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities

In January this year, a 17-year-old boy from Gaza died after Israeli authorities refused him a permit to travel out of Gaza for treatment for a congenital heart defect. The same month also saw protests in Gaza from female cancer patients who had been refused permission to travel for vital treatment.

Free movement of patients and medical personnel is vital to the effectiveness of care. Ambulance and permit delays can lead to missed appointments and interrupted treatments, endangering the health and lives of patients.

International law stipulates that, as the Occupying Power, Israel has a duty to ensure adequate access to medical treatment for the population under its control. It is vital that governments like the UK place pressure on the Government of Israel to remove obstacles to the right to movement which undermine healthcare.

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