Beloved Abeer passes away after being denied travel for treatment outside Gaza

Abeer Abu Jayyab was “one of the loveliest and most resilient women” at the MAP-supported women’s health centre in Bureij Camp, Gaza, according to the centre’s director. Abeer attended the centre from April 2013, led its peer support groups and was “a flame of vitality, energy and positivity”

But suffering from breast cancer, Abeer needed a course of Herceptin, a treatment unavailable in Gaza. She applied for a travel permit to make the journey from Gaza to Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem, but the Israeli authorities rejected her requests for “security reasons” and she was forced to miss her appointments in February, March and April this year.

From being a radiant woman who gave hope to others, Abeer’s health declined and she now needed that hope and support from others.

The cancer spread to her lungs and brain, weakening her sight and movement. Abeer died on 8 June, aged 46, leaving behind her children – the youngest five years old - and husband.

Abeer is one of at least six Palestinians in Gaza to have died from cancer this year after being denied permission to travel for potentially life-saving treatment. A further six people have died from other conditions.

This week the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a report on health access for patients referred for treatment outside of Gaza. It showed a further drop in the number of permits approved for patients to exit via the Erez crossing in May, with fewer than half (47%) granted, and the rest denied or delayed.

Cancer treatments are by far the top need for such referrals, due in part to frequent medical shortages, and the lack of radiotherapy and specialised chemotherapy treatment inside Gaza.

According to the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Gaza, the Palestinian Authority have not sent a bulk shipment of essential drugs to Gaza from the West Bank since March, and have also taken steps to slow down the approval process for Gaza patients needing to travel for treatment.

Medical Aid for Palestinians urges the UK and other governments to take action to ensure Israel removes obstacles to accessing healthcare, including ultimately by ending the closure and the occupation. MAP also urges all Palestinian duty-bearers to prioritise the health and well-being of the population.

Our deepest condolences to the family of Abeer Abu Jayyad and everyone at the Culture and Free Thought Association women’s health centre in Bureij.