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Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
15 November 2006

15-11-2006  Press Release 06/126 
ICRC deeply concerned about the interruption of health services for the Palestinian population

Geneva / Tel Aviv (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is deeply concerned about the interruption of essential health services available until now to the Palestinian population living in the West Bank.

“The effects are only too real,” said Eileen Daly, ICRC health coordinator. “Only two days ago, a child suffering from acute fever was turned away by the local hospital. The doctors and nurses, unpaid for months, were on strike. The mother spent all morning travelling to various clinics only to find out she could not afford their fees. Her little girl died. This could easily have been avoided.”

The decision to withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority has had a dramatic effect on medical services since the beginning of the year, despite efforts by donors to support private and charitable health-care facilities. An already precarious situation worsened on 7 November when Ministry of Health staff working for the Palestinian territories’ largest health-services provider expanded their strike, suspending all primary health-care services and closing emergency rooms in all government hospitals.

According to ICRC estimates, West Bank hospitals today are operating at one fifth of their capacity and many small medical facilities are completely closed. Emergency life-saving services as well as curative and preventive care are jeopardized by the current situation.

The ICRC appeals for essential health services to be restored. It reminds medical personnel that it is their duty as a matter of medical ethics to provide such services, and urges the international community to seriously consider the consequences in humanitarian terms of the suspension of funding to the Palestinian Authority.

Since the beginning of 2006, the ICRC has repeatedly warned of the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territories.
An ICRC report issued today documents the tragic consequences that the interruption of essential health services has had on the Palestinian population. A key finding is that it is the poor, whose numbers are increasing because of the overall economic decline, who are predominantly affected by the current interruption of health services.

The ICRC has responded by stepping up its activities, but neither it nor any other humanitarian organization can take the place of the authorities as a provider of public services. Furthermore, under international humanitarian law, it is the responsibility of the State of Israel, as the occupying power, to ensure that the basic needs of the civilian population in the occupied territories, including access to medical care, are met at all times.

For further information, please contact:
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
Simon Schorno, ICRC Jerusalem, tel. +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 50
Bana Sayeh, ICRC Jerusalem, tel. +972 2 582 88 45 or +972 52 601 91 48
Sharon Yeheskel-Oron, ICRC Tel Aviv, tel. +972 3 524 52 86 or +972 54 636 87 22

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