IFRC


Palestine Red Crescent Society concerned about health conditions and risk of epidemic in remote villages

Published: 14 May 2002 0:00 CET

Rana Sidani

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) is very concerned about the deteriorating health conditions in the Occupied and Autonomous Palestinian Territories, especially in villages which remain totally cut off. "Medical crews have no free access there," says Dr. Younis Al-Khatib, the president of the PRCS. "Our health services have reached their lowest level ever, to the point that we can now say there are no longer any health services in the villages."

Following the destruction of homes and infrastructure caused by recent Israeli military actions in the territories, hundreds of people are homeless and have had no access either to emergency care or to regular, public health care in hospitals or clinics. Checkpoints continue to severely restrict travel.

The immunization programme, which provided 12 types of vaccinations for new-born babies and children, has been stopped. This situation could lead to an increased mortality rate for children and cause epidemics, especially among the young. Additionally, elderly people with chronic diseases are suffering from shortages of medicine. Another concern is the lack of decent hygienic living conditions in several cities where garbage collection was not carried out for some time. This raises another potential threat of epidemics.

Last week, the Federation launched an appeal for 1.8 million Swiss francs to support PRCS health programmes and to strengthen PRCS capacity to respond to health emergencies. The funds will be used to replenish stocks of medicines and medical supplies for PRCS primary health care and home-based care programmes. Funds will also serve to complete the establishment of a PRCS Emergency Response Unit field hospital.

The appeal, according to Al-Khatib will "help us extend our medical hotline in order to assist the most vulnerable, especially where accessibility is limited." The appeal will also fund increased volunteer activities, especially in disaster preparedness and emergency response programmes. For its part, the ICRC will continue to support emergency medical services, including the psychological support programme for ambulance crews and their families.

Numerous checkpoints and blocked roads remain a severe difficulty for PRCS ambulances. "When they can move, an ambulance may take three hours to get to a patient and three hours to get back to the medical centre" says Al-Khatib. Since the Israeli offensive began at the end of March, 36 women have delivered babies at checkpoints, three women died there in childbirth and four infants died.

Over the past weeks, PRCS medical personnel have been arrested. Five PRCS emergency rescue members are still detained. According to the PRCS, they were handcuffed, beaten and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers when arrested and one of them was used as human shield. Al-Khatib has urged the Federation and the ICRC to intervene on their behalf with Israeli authorities to have them released.

Related Links:
06 May 2002 - Palestine Red Crescent Recovery Programme Emergency Appeal
23 April 2002 - Red Cross and Red Crescent mobilizes help for Palestinian population
12 April 2002 - Movement expresses deep concern about humanitarian situation on West Bank
03 April 2002 - Appeal for access to sick and injured in Palestine
27 March 2002 - A day with Palestine's emergency medical teams

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