Palestinian child, 5, dies after being denied Gaza exit for medical treatment

A five year old child from Khan Younis, Gaza, has died after Israeli authorities failed to issue her a permit to exit for medical care in East Jerusalem. The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reported last week that Aya Khalil Abu Metlaq was born with a metabolic disorder, adequate treatment for which was unavailable inside Gaza.

Aya was referred to the Al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. According the Al Mezan, Aya’s parents initially applied to the Israeli authorities for an exit permit for her to travel to an appointment at the hospital on 5 February, but received no response. When the appointment was rescheduled for 19 March they applied again, but once again the authorities at the Erez crossing failed to respond in time meaning no exit was possible. Aya died on 17 April, while her family were again waiting for a permit to exit for an appointment scheduled for 27 April.

Aya’s case is not an isolated incident. Last year, one third of all patients applying for permits to exit Gaza for medical treatment were either denied by Israeli authorities, or received no response in time to travel to their appointment. In January this year, the rate of denials and delays reached 53%, meaning that the majority of patients missed their appointments.

Al Mezan has reported that three patients died in the first quarter of 2017 while waiting for exit permits. Among these patients was 17-year-old Ahmed Hasan Shubeir, who died while waiting treatment for a congenital heart defect in January.

These permits are particularly important to patients in Gaza, where a number of medical specialties are unavailable, and the health sector has been severely damaged by a decade of blockade and closure, repeated military offensives, and chronic fuel shortages.

The accessibility of healthcare is a fundamental element of the right to health. If patients are unable to physically get to centres of care, other aspects such as quality and availability of treatment are rendered meaningless.

MAP has documented how Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement affect the physical accessibility of treatment for Palestinian patients in a new briefing paper, ‘Health Under Occupation: Access to Healthcare’, available here.