OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israel is killing Palestinian patients by denying them access to life-saving treatment outside the besieged Gaza Strip, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, April 1.
"The right to health appears to be optional for Palestinians," Ambrogio Manenti, the head of the WHO’s West Bank and Gaza office, told a press conference.
He asserted that case studies of patients who died while waiting for permits to travel to Israel for treatment show "nonsense, inhumanity and, at the end, tragedy".
The WHO listed 32 Gaza patients who died since October last year after Israel delayed or rejected their requests to be treated outside the strip, ranging from a 1-year-old child to a 77-year-old man.
Samer’s Death Sentence
Six of them were waiting for Israeli authorities to issue a permit to enter while the others were denied permits because they were considered a security risk, including a 65-year-old woman.
Some had obtained a permit but died while waiting for Israeli authorities to allow them to cross into Israel.
The Gaza Strip does not have much specialized medical care, and doctors traditionally transfer Palestinians to Egypt, Israel and to Jordan for treatment.
Israel has been closing the Gaza Strip’s exits to the outside world since Hamas took control of the territory last June after routing rival Fatah.
It has completely locked down the coastal area since January, causing its sole power plant to shut down for lack of fuel.
Most medical equipment were left standing idle and patients of chronic diseases resigning themselves to death.
The WHO study cites the example of Amir Al-Yazji, 9, who died of meningeal encephalitis at a hospital in Gaza after his permit request was repeatedly delayed by Israel.
The boy was admitted to hospital on November 5 and doctors ordered a computer-aided tomography because he was not responding to antibiotic treatment.
But the CT scanner needed repairs and the hospital officials could not do it until five days later due to a shortage of spare parts.
After making the scanning, doctors found a lesion on the anterior wall of the brain, so they decided the Al-Yazji needs specialist care in Israel.
The father obtained an urgent referral, but for days he could not get a permit for his son to cross Erez checkpoint into Israel despite hundreds of phone calls.
Yazji’s condition deteriorated dramatically and the Israeli permit came on November 18.
But the doctor and two nurses who were to travel in the ambulance with him were denied access.
"Five different teams…were refused," said the WHO report.
It was too late and the Palestinian kid breathed his last the same day.
"From a health perspective this is something unacceptable," said Manenti, the WHO official.
"That was one of several tragedies that could and should have been avoided."
(IslamOnline.net and agencies)