Casualty of War: Health Care in Palestine

By Moshary, Sarah | Harvard International Review, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Casualty of War: Health Care in Palestine


Moshary, Sarah, Harvard International Review


The Israel-Palestine conflict has raged in the Middle East for many decades, but the effect of its violence is only one contributor to the low quality of life in the Palestinian territories. The poor state of health care in Palestine is a major problem that has too often been overlooked. While foreign aid is essential to its improvement, the ultimate solution to Palestine's health care crisis depends on resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict and creating political stability.

One cause of this crisis is Palestine's dire lack of funding and spending for its health care system. The expenditure on health care is US$138 per capita, a miniscule figure when compared to the US$5,711 spent on health care per capita in the United States. The World Health Organization reports that "around 25 percent of the essential drug list and 20 percent of the disposable supplies have reached a point of zero stock." Apart from a drug shortage, the Palestinian Health Ministry cannot pay wages to health workers because of funding shortages. Without staff and supplies, the Palestinian health care system cannot provide adequate services.

The lack of foreign aid has exacerbated the shortages of medicine and personnel. When Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections last January, Western countries froze aid to the Palestinian Authority because they did not want to support Hamas. Earlier this past fall, Hamas and the major opposition party, Fatah, which is more favored by Western nations, tried to compromise and regain aid from foreign governments. Disagreement over strategies for dealing with Israel, however, kept the two parties from forming a coalition government. Until these two parties resolve their differences and convince Western governments to restart aid programs to Palestinians, health care will continue to suffer from insufficient funding.

The lack of funding is caused by the Israel-Palestine conflict because upheaval and ideological conflicts preclude political cooperation in Palestine. …

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