Health care and children

Under five mortality is a universal indicator of child health. In Palestine it is 22 per 1000 compared with Israel where it is 4 per 1000

Child health in Palestine is negatively affected by the ongoing burden of living under occupation and siege as well as a state of chronic stress due to acts of violence against a whole nation including children. A key impact of occupation is high unemployment which in turn results in high levels of poverty:  rates of at least 25% and deep poverty rate of 18% are quoted by WHO.

Gaza faces severe equipment and stock shortage and in May 2017, 34% of essential medicines and 32% of medical disposables were at ‘zero stock’ in Gaza, meaning that less than a month’s supply was available. Among the 170 items affected were medications used to treat cancer and immunological diseases, and medical disposables needed for use in operating rooms, emergency departments and intensive care.

The occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza directly kills children too. Sometimes by direct gunfire from Israel – as in the 14 year old Othman Hilles in 2018 during the Great March of Return or 15 year old Ali Ayman Saleh Abu Alia in December 2020 – and sometimes because the Israeli authorities do not respond to requests or allow travel to Jerusalem from Gaza for medical care – in 2017 the Israeli government refused entry to 5 year old Aya Khalil Abu Metalq who required treatment for a metabolic disorder.

Since 2000, there have been 2,120 children killed directly by Israeli forces. How would the press react if this was in Myamar?

Settler violence is also a factor – constant stone throwing at children going to school is well documented, attacks on land, olive tress and animal stock are common. 

This atmosphere of violence and threat contribute to high rates of domestic violence and consequent mental ill-health in children. A report in 2003 reported 93% of children in Gaza had experienced being or feeling threatened, a loss or a lack of security, and fear. The experience of the teenagers was horrific: 80% had seen shootings, 28% had seen a stranger killed, 11% had seen a friend or neighbour killed and 54% of boys had experienced body searches. Not surprisingly, 10.4% of the participants had a depressive-like state, 14.1% emotional difficulties and 10.3% somatic disorders.

Provision of health care is also impacted by occupation: doctors have to go abroad to gain expertise, work and and qualifications causing a drain on talent. This is further exacerbated by the difficulties of establishing adequate health management and supplies under occupation whereas in Gaza acute fuel shortages constrain provision of all types of medical treatment.