Two more patients die in Gaza after being denied travel for treatment

Two more Palestinian patients have died after being denied permits by Israeli authorities to exit Gaza for medical treatment. Both women were diagnosed with cancer and denied access to vital treatment in Jerusalem.

According to Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Ka’enat Mustafa Ja’arour, 42, was suffering from uterine cancer, and was referred for treatment at a hospital in Jerusalem. Her first request for a permit to exit Gaza via the Erez Crossing was submitted to the Israeli authorities at the end of April 2017, and was rejected. She received no response to two subsequent requests until her death on 27 August.

Fatin Nader Ahmed, 26, was referred to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem for treatment for brain cancer. Her first permit request was submitted to the Israeli authorities in November 2016, however, the status of her permit request for treatment remained “under security check”. Two further requests also remained under security check, and a fourth was rejected. Fatin’s fifth request was finally approved, allowing her to cross Erez for treatment in Jerusalem. Doctors at Augusta Victoria Hospital recommended a course of four consecutive sessions of chemotherapy. However, following her first treatment, Fatin’s following three permits to exit Gaza for treatment were rejected by Israeli authorities, not allowing her access to the vital completion of her course of treatment.

Fatin died in Gaza City on 23 August 2017, a mere hour’s drive away from the hospital that could have given her the treatment which could have extended her life.

This year has been marked by a significant increase in the barriers to treatment for patients in Gaza. At least 25 patients are recorded to have died so far this year after being prevented from accessing treatment elsewhere.

In June, Israel approved permits for less than half (49.5%) of all patients seeking to exit for treatment in East Jerusalem, the West Bank or abroad. These permits are critical for many patients unable to access the medical treatment they need within Gaza. Some patients have also been affected by reported reductions in the number of patients granted financial coverage for treatment referrals by the Ministry of Health in Ramallah.

Gaza’s humanitarian emergency

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) last week announced that Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian emergency. Electricity shortages cause blackouts of 18-20 hours per day, and have significantly reduced vital hospital services. Diagnostic services are limited to when mains electricity is available, and voltage fluctuations have damaged sensitive medical equipment such as CT scanners.

Medical supplies are also depleted. In July, the Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that 40% of essential medicines and 34% of medical disposables were at ‘zero stock’ (meaning that less than a month’s supply is available) including half of all cancer drugs.

The accessibility of healthcare is a fundamental element of the right to health. As the occupying power, Israel has an international legal obligation to ensure humanitarian assistance to the population under its control, including access to medical care. Palestinian duty-bearers are also obliged to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of the population and ensure access to medical care without discrimination, insofar as they are able within the constraints of occupation.

You can read our latest report and infographics on how the occupation undermines the accessibility of healthcare here.

Please support our campaign and demand health and dignity for Palestinians, including the right to access healthcare which Ka’enat and Fatin were so tragically denied. 

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