Strangling the Palestinian medical system

Yet another urgent cry for help concerning the dire medical care catastrophe in the Israeli occupied territories of Palestine. Israel has cut off tax revenues they have collected, essentially confiscating Palestinian wages for work done. At the same time international donors have cut-off aid in an unconscionable act allegedly protesting an unwanted outcome to a democratic election in January 2006. The targets may have been Palestinian leaders, but it is ordinary people that have been hit.

As a consequence of these measures, the PA [Palestinian Authority] has been unable to pay regular salaries since March 2006. Health workers employed by the PA have since received provisional allowances through the Temporary International Mechanism established by the European Union . However they joined a general open-ended strike on 23 August demanding full payment of long-overdue salaries and guarantees that salaries in the upcoming months will be paid.

According to media reports, unions representing health professionals in the West Bank have announced that as of 15 November public medical services will be further restricted. This will affect people requiring emergency care, chronic patients and deliveries of newborns as Primary Health Centers will be closed down and emergency rooms at public hospitals will stop operating.

"WHO is very concerned about the announced reduction of services and the deterioration of vital medical services. This will further exacerbate the already difficult humanitarian situation affecting Palestinian lives and their right to enjoy the highest possible level of physical and mental health, " said WHO's Head of Office, Ambrogio Manenti. (WHO Statement via EI)

Bullets, tank shells, rockets, suicide bombs and machine guns are not the only ways to kill people.

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"At the same time international donors have cut-off aid in an unconscionable act allegedly protesting an unwanted outcome to a democratic election in January 2006."

Unconscionable? Allegedly protesting? You throw these words around with no evidence or reason for them. Yes, the elections were democratic, but the Palestinians did elect leaders unambiguously sworn to deadly jihad. You really think that donors MUST continue to make gifts to these people? By what twisted morals do you make such a claim on people's gifts? Meanwhile, there are plenty of *peaceful* people in the world whose suffering can be alleviated with those financial gifts.

Isn't our world religion-crazed enough that this community need not come to the defense of Hamas? This posting should have no place on Scienceblogs.

David, why don't you come out and say really mean - something like "Israel can do no wrong".

By natural cynic (not verified) on 18 Nov 2006 #permalink

David: I am not coming to the defense of Hamas. I am coming to the defense of innocent Palestinians (unless you don't think there is such a thing) who are being punished by this hideous policy that kills people by shutting down their access to health care. Are you coming to the defense of Sharon and now Olmert if you decry suicide bombings? I am not assuming so, so you shouldn't assume I am defending Hamas.

Whether this belongs on ScienceBlogs is not your business although you are entitled to your opinion and Im' letting you express it here. But I do note this is a public health blog and this is a public health issue. War is a public health issue, too. So is torture. So is the kind of malignant tribalism on both sides that afflicts the Israel Palestine conflict. I don't think you are contributing to solving it with you disregard for the loss of innocent life in Palestine.

The Israelis and their shills in the United States (see David, above) systematically attempt to suppress any criticism in the American press of the Zionist government's policy. They are, in general, very successful.

There is nothing Israel's apologists will not excuse: apartheid, war crimes, the starvation of entire populations. The Jewish state and its supporters must be brought to account before the bar of international justice.

Bullets, tank shells, rockets, suicide bombs and machine guns are not the only ways to kill people.

The report actually says that the threatened health crisis is the result of a strike by health care workers. They're striking because they're not being paid - which is fair enough - but then it turns out that they actually are receiving a "provisional allowance". This looks to me like an internal fight about funding. It's past the 15th now, does anyone know whether the strike went ahead?

Incidentally, the health care workers are presently being paid by the EU. This is inconsistent with your statement that international donors have cut off aid. Perhaps they only cut off some aid, or most of it?

By Joe in Australia (not verified) on 18 Nov 2006 #permalink

Joe: My biases (and yours) are quite clear on this and we have each taken from this report what we wanted to. Let me acknowledge the points you make. There is an internal fight over allocation of available monies, but I would characterize it as a desperate fight over meager scraps insufficient to sustain the population. International aid has been drastically reduced and as far as I know the Israelis have not turned over the taxes they confiscated (maybe you know differently). What I think we can both agree on is that there is a desperate humanitarian crisis where innocent people are dying. We assign responsibility for this differently. The consequences for those that die and those that survive them is a question we both must ponder.

On the other hand guys, its all based on assumptions. Revere assumes that there are innocent Palestinians and others disagree. But there is also an assumption that there is not a technical state of war there. What ? Send them the money because someone assumes that it will result in aid to the people. How bout that billion bucks that the former leader of the Palestinian state stole from his people?

The assumption is that those innocents will grow up and finally after many abortive attempts will become a fine Palestinian, a businessman with two cars and never, ever pick up a weapon. And the assumption is that the Israelis should be just sending that money on in there and that it will make it to the right people.
We all are basing our thoughts on assumpive reasoning and the bottom line is that you have well armed people with a cause attacking Israel and they respond in kind. They are much better armed and the bad boys run into populated areas which Israel decimates from the air with large bore weapons killiing innocents and causing secondary problems such as infrastruction destruction.

I suggest three things. First is that Hamas and everyone else quit attacking Israel. Second is that Israel park its aircraft and military 15 minutes after that. Third, everyone over there go back to herding goats and growing food, rebuild their infrastructures and forget the past and move ahead.

It will become immediately clear after that if the intent is to destroy Israel or not. Once established to the yea or nay side Israel should be simply allowed to kill everyone in a zone if they are attacked. Its the only way to settle the argument permanently. Stop attacking Israel, or they will be allowed to take you completely out. I dont think thats a hard decision. Its simplistic but thats what the need right now is simple. If you wrap religion, old homelands etc, into this there is never going to be a peace over there and a balance of terror continues. My biggest fear is that someone fires a nuke and then it will escalate in under a week to WW IV.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 19 Nov 2006 #permalink

So wasn't today the day the Tripoli Six were sentenced or released by a compromised Lybian country including their medical colleagues, and a world of politics doing no more than business as usual?? What about their fate?

What I think we can both agree on is that there is a desperate humanitarian crisis where innocent people are dying. We assign responsibility for this differently.

With respect, I think you're bringing a lot more to the article than is actually there. It doesn't say that there is presently a medical crisis. It describes the potential consequences of a threatened strike, not a present lack of medical resources.

By Joe in Australia (not verified) on 19 Nov 2006 #permalink

No Joe, Revere is right. There is a crisis of huge proportions over there. Its all based on money and no one wants to send money any longer because it does get stolen and ends up in the wrong hands. The US was paying and that ended because Yasser and friends were turning it into private Swiss accounts. Why have a war if you are getting "humanitarian aid" money sent to you. They dont pay you if you are fighting.They would give it to the UN but the same applies there. Goods bought never arrive, or if they do they are sucked up by micro warlords thereby requiring even more to be sent. Or its sold for guns and ammo so they can remain....warlords.

Like I said, this system is about to evolve and likely for the worse before it finally gets better. I hate to think about being given the green light to eliminate an entire population zone but nothing has changed in the 50 plus years since Israels birth. They get better and better at killing their enemies that outnumber them six to one. Tthey have to be able to kill at that ratio and then some to stay ahead. That is the reason the damage is so great when they do attack in response to attacks. Back to the goats and growing tomato's.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 19 Nov 2006 #permalink

There are very few bloggers in Gaza, and only one in health care as far as I could see. In English. She posts news articles but also personal experience and photos, scroll..

Excerpt (5 November)

I am really worried about the situation in the north of Gaza. After a quick assessment of the situation and being personally unable to enter the village, I decided to send the baby milk with the UN. I am pleased to let you know that on the 5th day of the siege, the MECA office in Gaza managed to send 300 packets of baby milk to Beit Hanoun with the United Nations Relief Work Agency (UNRWA) team. They managed to get permission to enter the village with a convoy. It was not easy to coordinate this entry into the village, and took a lot of time. The curfew was lifted for 2 hours, so the convoy had to arrive to the village during that time.

I would like the attempt to a ceasefire and forget about the past, but after the interests of some warlords and other leaders have been vanished (which will never be the case) the individuals are so traumatized and their lives are so damaged that there will have to be a very sophisticated mental health care system to get a bit of it repaired. In my view a personal shift in the view of one single person over there on this never ending war is harder to attain than occupying the whole region and destructing everything that's left. Most people there have nothing left to lose and their way of survival must be combined with an outraged feeling of injustice.
The mechanism that one firing person can spoil the chances of a ceasefire for the rest of the population makes this a neverending situation even more.
So I am for years already very concerned about the fate of these people but I am very pessimistic about it too.
One can't prescribe something like oxytocine for the population on both sides for many years but I think it would be the only solution. If this hormone would hold on the damaged brain system of chronic traumatized people. Seriously. But you may think I'm a lunatic. You'r welcome.

By the way, thank you Revere I wrongly had omitted one month for the Tripoli Six, probably by my private reasoning that it's too long to keep innocent prisoners captured that long before a certain kind of ending their torturing is planned.