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So Close Yet Unattainable: Lack of Access to Healthcare outside Gaza, April 26, 2009

26-04-2009 00:00

Khalid Sakir Ebid (33) is suffering from follicular non-hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer.
He was diagnosed in October 2008 after a biopsy at Al Mutala’a Hospital in Jerusalem.
He needs to undergo radiotherapy immediately, a treatment that is unavailable in Gaza.
He had an appointment on 8 April in Jerusalem, and though he has both a referral and financial coverage from the Ministry of Health in Ramallah (MoH-R), he was not allowed to leave Gaza.
The longer he waits before undergoing radiotherapy, the more the cancer will spread.
He came to Al Mezan Center's office seeking advice and aid; two services that have become extremely difficult to provide during the past few weeks.
  This is yet another consequence of the situation caused by occupation and the Hamas-Fatah political rift.
Because of the lack of adequate medical healthcare Gazan patients often need to seek treatment abroad.
While some patients try to apply for permits to receive care in Egypt, Jordan, or elsewhere abroad, others try to seek treatment in Israel because of the high quality of the hospitals and the short distance they need to travel to access them.
The process to get a permit for the treatment has become more difficult and time-consuming as the checkpoints have become harder to cross under the complex closure regime Israel imposes, and as the political situation has become more tense.
On 22 March 2009 Hamas took over the Department of Referrals Abroad (DRA) in Gaza, which resulted in the Israel government refusing to accept referrals issued by the DRA.
The MoH-R and the Ministry of Health in Gaza (MoH-G) have failed to cooperate with each other to resolve this issue, even after negotiations this month, which resulted in an initial agreement between them to cooperate, due to pressure exerted by many NGOs, the UN and the WHO.
Over 41 Gazans have died for reasons that can be owed to the collapse of the referral process in the last year, while the health of hundreds of Gazan patients' is deteriorating rapidly.
This is the consequence of continued conflict between the political powers in the OPT as well as the Israeli government, and the lack of their respect for the lives of Palestinian civilians and their right to health.
The majority of the 41 deaths were results of the delays in, or failure to, permit the patients access to hospitals in Israel and/or the West Bank.
Gazans can only access these hospitals via Erez Crossing, which is controlled by the Israel.
In addition to already strict restrictions, Gazans have started to experience more difficulties since 22 March 2009, when the Gaza Government took over the DRA at the MoH-G.
The following report attempts to shed light on the impact of such developments on the right to health and the right to life in Gaza.

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