World Bank: Israeli restrictions make it difficult for Palestinians to access healthcare

AFP || Shining BD

Published: 9/18/2023 9:30:34 AM

Israel's restrictions and rising fiscal constraints in the Palestinian territories are severely impacting the economic conditions of Palestinians and hindering their access to timely life-saving healthcare, the World Bank said Monday.

In a report titled "Racing Against Time", the World Bank said that overall the Palestinian economy was performing below potential, with per capita income expected to stagnate.

Poverty in the Palestinian territories was on the rise, with one out of four Palestinians living below the poverty line, the Washington-based global lender said.

Several factors, including Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, its restrictions on trade and movement in the occupied West Bank, and the separation of the two Palestinian territories, had put the Palestinian economy at risk, according to the report.

"The financial limitations significantly impact the Palestinian healthcare system, especially regarding its capacity to manage the increasing number of non-communicable illnesses," stated Stefan Emblad, the World Bank's director for the West Bank and Gaza, in a statement that was made public alongside the report.

According to him, such limitations as "a lengthy, bureaucratic regime of permits" frequently make it difficult to give Palestinians access to timely, life-saving medical care.

Access to outside medical referrals for treatment of cancers, heart diseases, and maternal and child birth conditions are significantly affected due to physical and administrative constraints, the statement said.

"The situation is particularly critical in Gaza, which suffers from a more limited health system capacity and where patients struggle to get needed medical exit permit applications on a timely basis," it said.

"Research figures show that the near-blockade of Gaza has had an impact on mortality, as some patients do not outlive the length of the permit process."

Thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip cross annually into Israel for medical treatment unavailable in the impoverished Palestinian territories.

Israel has occupied the West Bank -- now home to some three million Palestinians -- since the 1967 Six-Day War, when it also seized the Gaza Strip, the densely populated coastal enclave it has since withdrawn from.

Last year, Israel issued entry permits for more than 110,000 medical visits for West Bank residents, according to COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body overseeing civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories.

More than 17,000 such permits were issued during the same period to Palestinians from Gaza, where 2.3 million people live.

An Israeli blockade imposed by Israel since the Islamist movement Hamas rose to power in 2007 has also obstructed medical supplies to the enclave.

In an effort to give patients and their companions prompt access to medical care, the World Bank urged Israeli and Palestinian authorities to handle these medical cases more effectively and streamline the permit application process.

According to Emblad, the Palestinian economy has been stagnating overall for the last five years and is not expected to improve unless local policies are changed.

The World Bank stated, "Given population growth trends, income per capita is thus expected to stagnate."

Shining BD