West Bank health system under strain amid COVID-19 surge

A worrying surge in COVID-19 cases is once again placing immense pressures on Palestinian health services in the West Bank. The World Health Organization estimates that there are currently 20,203 active cases in the West Bank, with the high caseload driven by the arrival of highly infectious UK and South African variants of the virus. There has been a 34% increase in the daily rate of deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of March.

The whole West Bank has been placed into lockdown, with no movement between governorates permitted except for medical personnel, essential goods and food. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reports that 90.5% of all dedicated COVID-19 beds and 93% of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are now occupied, with cases still increasing. Hospitals in some areas are now operating beyond capacity, with ICUs in the Ramallah governorate at 115% occupancy. Meanwhile, movement restrictions and the diversion of resources are also affecting people’s ability to access other vital healthcare.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and our partners on the ground are continuing to monitor the situation and are working hard to ensure the continuity of essential healthcare services. Our mobile clinic in partnership with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society is helping to by providing essential primary healthcare medicines and COVID-19 health education to isolated and marginalised communities across the West Bank including in the South Hebron Hills.

Despite the increasing strains on the Palestinian health system, the programme of vaccinations available for Palestinians remains piecemeal, glacially slow, and dependent on intermittent international donations. While more than five million Israeli citizens have now received a vaccine – including those living in illegal settlements in the West Bank – fewer than ten thousand Palestinians living under its military occupation have received the same. Israel has begun vaccinating the approximately 100,000 Palestinians with permits to work in Israel and its settlements, but continues to refuse to meet its legal duty as an occupying power to ensure all Palestinians under its control can access a rapid, comprehensive and equitable system of vaccination.

(Source / 13.03.2021)

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