55. Bellisari, A. Health and Medical Care in the Occupied Territories. The Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, 1991: 8 pp.
The health of Palestinians living under Israeli Occupation is in a state of crisis. This is due principally to traumatic injuries inflicted by Israeli forces and settlers and to complications of chronic illnesses resulting mainly from Israeli policies. Furthermore, Israeli policies have a negative effect on health care facilities, services, and providers, further affecting the Palestinian public health sector.
With respect to food, these policies include restrictions on Palestinian agriculture and fishing, curfews that prevent Palestinians from going out to buy food, and limitations on the ability of Palestinians to work or conduct business, thus causing widespread poverty. As a result, there is widening malnutrition.
Safe water supplies for Palestinians are hard to come by due to Israeli policies prohibiting Palestinians from digging wells and the parallel unlimited Israeli access to West Bank and Gaza water supplies. Deliberate neglect by the Israeli occupation authorities of sanitary facilities, especially in the Gaza Strip, has resulted in pollution of Palestinian water supplies, which are further threatened by the seepage of salt water from the see. These policies lead to widespread infectious diseases among Palestinians, as well as higher incidence of kidney disease.
The right of Palestinians to shelter is compromised by Israeli restrictions on Palestinian housing construction and by Israeli demolition and sealing of homes. Palestinians unable to build, end up living in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions which promote the spread of disease.
Health care facilities and services are also less than adequate, due again to deliberate Israeli policies. Through curfews, travel restrictions, fees and other means, Palestinians' access to medical care is restricted and is often denied outright. Medical personnel, including physicians, nurses, and ambulance drivers, have been subjected to direct assaults by Israeli soldiers. Palestinian self-help measures have made up to some extent for deficiencies in the government system, but they are not recognized by the Israelis and are inadequate. Also, in an environment where the principal problems are traumatic injuries and chronic diseases, there is a notable lack of rehabilitative and chronic care.
Health care providers, including UNRWA, Palestinian self-help measures, and foreign volunteers, are stretched to their limits by the crisis. Except for the Israeli system, all providers are subject to restrictions and harassment by the Israeli security forces, making their task much more difficult.
That the state of health care in the Occupied Territories is a grave and urgent humanitarian issue is self-evident. However, given the realities of occupation, it is difficult to see how measures can be taken to alleviate these problems absent a political settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to the occupation itself.