WHO and Ministry of Health strengthen capacities for International Health Regulations for Palestine
3 February 2017, Ramallah and Gaza – The Palestinian Ministry of Health, the Norwegian Institute for Public Health and WHO completed a week of activities aimed at strengthening country capacities to detect, notify, assess and respond to public health threats and potential public health emergencies of international concern.
Meetings and workshops were conducted over 6 days, 29 January to 3 February. They brought national experts and participants together with international experts from Norway and the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean to focus efforts to enhance public health surveillance, laboratory analysis, infection prevention and control, emergency preparedness and health risk communication in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Dr Gerald Rockenschaub, Head of Office for WHO in the West Bank and Gaza, recognized the difficulties facing the Palestinian health system. Specific challenges include restricted authority at points of entry, limited jurisdiction over around 65% of the West Bank that comprises ‘Area C’ under direct Israeli military control and the geographical divide between the West Bank and Gaza. Dr Bjørn Iversen, Director for International Public Health at the Norwegian Institute for Public Health, outlined how recent political instability in the Region led to the reemergence of wild poliovirus in Syria and Iraq, posing a threat to surrounding countries including the occupied Palestinian territory and leading the WHO Emergency Committee to declare the situation a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in 2014. Similarly, the 2016 World Health Assembly examined the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and emphasized the need to strengthen health systems to improve country capacities to prevent, detect, notify, assess and respond to public health threats.
Through collaborative workshops in Ramallah and Gaza, participants and experts from multiple disciplines and sectors reviewed recommendations from the 2016 Joint Assessment and Support Mission in the occupied Palestinian territory and finalised a three year work plan for activities to strengthen capacities for International Health Regulations in the country. Four further workshops focused on the development of event-based surveillance systems and the means to enhance indicator-based surveillance in the West Bank and Gaza.
The Director General for Primary Healthcare, Dr Kamal Shakhra, joined Ministry of Health representatives in Gaza to welcome the efforts of participants and experts to strengthen capacities to meet International Health Regulations and to improve the health of Palestinians.
International Health Regulations