World Bank greenlights $10 million grant to improve Palestinian health services

World Bank greenlights $10 million grant to improve Palestinian health services
Healthcare services in the Palestinian territories have suffered greatly as a result of Israeli occupation and siege and insufficient funding.
2 min read
09 April, 2023
The World Bank said the grant will go towards strengthening hospitals to increase their efficiency [Getty - archive]

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

The international financial institution said that despite efforts to better the quality of healthcare services in the occupied territories, "much remains to be done" to enhance the utilisation of primary health services in the West Bank.

Palestinian health services in both the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip have long faced severe challenges regarding their quality and functionality, mainly due to inadequate funds and the Israeli siege on Gaza, which obstructs the entry of medical equipment needed to treat suffering patients.

The Israeli government has been accused of "systematically killing" Gazan cancer patients by blocking the entry of radiology and laboratory devices, surgical endoscopes, eye surgery microscopes, and cardiac catheters, among other specialized equipment.

The siege also prevents around 40 percent of cancer patients from seeking treatment overseas, according to health officials in the Gaza Strip.

"While government spending on health constitutes four percent of GDP, higher than many regional peers, the Palestinian healthcare system struggles to provide the care needed for all its citizens," said Stefan Emblad, the World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza, in a press release.

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"The new World Bank-financed project intends to help ensure continuity of healthcare services, expand its coverage and build its resilience," he added.

Other factors, such as Israeli violence in and occupation of the West Bank, have contributed to the decline of Palestinian healthcare services.

In June 2021, Israeli authorities shut down a Palestinian Union of Health Workers Committee (UHWC) office in Ramallah, which rights groups said would negatively impact Palestinian access to  health services.

Financial pressures have also contributed to the weakening of health services. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has suffered a severe funding crisis amid a lack of willingness by many countries to donate funds.

Its facilities have closed across the occupied territories as workers strike over their meagre salaries. A significant number of Palestinians, including children, heavily rely on its services.

The World Bank said it will prioritise strengthening hospitals to increase their access and efficiency, which in turn will contribute to a "reduced financial burden on hospitals and clinics".

The project will also help procure targeted medical equipment for crucial illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases, as well as maternal health. Radiotherapy services in Gaza will also benefit from the grant.