Death of 3-month-old sheds light on West Bank healthcare crisis

Death of 3-month-old sheds light on West Bank healthcare crisis
2 min read
05 June, 2023
A lack of medical equipment and electricity has led to fatalities in the occupied West Bank
The little girl was rushed to the Hawara emergency centre nearby, but died shortly after [Getty/archive]

The death of a three-month-old baby girl in the occupied West Bank last week has highlighted the Palestinian Authority's failure to provide essential medical services, in a region already tormented by Israeli occupation and attacks.

Gharam Yasser Arafat died after being transferred from the village of Einabus to the emergency centre in neighbouring Hawara, where a lack of medical equipment forced doctors to use empty water bottles to pump air into the baby’s lungs.

Her father told The New Arab’s sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, that his wife breastfed their daughter and put her to bed, then checked on her minutes later and found that she was unable to breathe.

They rushed her to the Hawara emergency centre where the family was surprised to see there was no generator to turn the lights on during a power outage, and no oxygen tubes. The paramedic attempted to pump air into Gharam’s lungs using a plastic water bottle.

The Hawara emergency centre is meant to serve around 140,000 people living in 25 towns and villages south of the town of Nablus. It has witnessed frequent attacks by Israeli forces and settlers.

"The health centre was almost empty, and there was no ambulance available, so we waited half an hour for a private ambulance to arrive. But it was too late, as Gharam passed away," the father told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Hawara Mayor Mueen al-Damidi sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas following the incident, asking him to convert the emergency centre into a fully functioning hospital.

He also called for an investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the baby’s death.

There has been widespread anger against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its health ministry in the aftermath.

Palestinian health services in the West Bank have long faced severe challenges regarding their quality and functionality, mainly due to inadequate funds.

Israeli violence in and occupation of the West Bank have also contributed to the decline of healthcare services in the region.

The World Bank pledged on Saturday a $10 million grant to support the PA in its efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of Palestinian public health services.