23 February 2015, Ramallah − The Palestinian Ministry of Health and the World Bank, together with the WHO, USAID and the Italian Cooperation, participated in a launching ceremony of a World Bank project to strengthen health system resiliency. The US$ 8.5 million project will continue for 6 years and includes US$ 2 million for support for emergency clinical services in the Gaza Strip, and US$ 6.5 for the rationalization and reform of the health insurance and referrals systems in the West Bank.
His Excellency Minister of Health Dr Jawad Awwad said the commitment to development and reform in the health sector was a “top priority” for the ministry, despite external challenges that threaten sustainability, especially the recent Gaza war.
Fifty-three per cent of the West Bank population and 80%–100% of the Gaza population depends on health care services provided by the Ministry of Health, according to Dr Amira Hindi, Director of the Medical Referral Department.
This is what needs to be done at this stage,” said the World Bank representative, Dr Enis Baris, “and looking toward what needs to be done in the future.” The Palestinian Ministry of Health has been faced with chronic shortages of drugs, payroll payments, fuel and training due to budget shortfalls, and rising debts due in part to the high expenditures for referral treatments representing 25% of the budget.
The WHO Head of Office for the West Bank and Gaza Dr Gerald Rockenschaub remarked, “This project will make an important contribution towards advancing Universal Health Coverage and in building health system resilience. We are very happy to work in coordination with our partners to support the ministry.” Dr Rockenschaub also gave an update on current WHO health sector support, including the NCD, mental health, family medicine, advocacy and emergency programmes and support for the establishment of the Palestinian National Public Health Institute.
The following day, WHO also facilitated the visit of the World Bank to MoH facilities in Gaza. The delegation visited Al-Quba PHC in Shajaiya which sustained serious damage during the last summer war and is still closed. They also visited Al-Rahma PHC which is now covering the population previously served by Al-Quba clinic. The delegation, together with the WHO team, also met with MoH officials at Shifa hospital and discussed the new project.