MAP at the Conservative Party Conference 2017

This week, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) was at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester speaking to delegates about how the UK can best support development in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt).

A round-table discussion hosted by MAP, Prospect Magazine and the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), was attended by MAP’s CEO Aimee Shalan, Director of Programmes, Dr Andy Ferguson and Honorary MAP Patron and former President of the Royal College of Surgeons, Sir Terence English. Amnesty International UK, Forward Thinking, and the Amos Trust were among organisations also attending the discussion.

Aimee Shalan started the discussion by outlining the current humanitarian emergency Gaza is experiencing and the continued detrimental effects on the healthcare system. Gaza’s humanitarian situation is at its lowest ebb outside of periods of military offensive. Aimee highlighted that the unemployment rate is the highest in the world at 43% and approximately 40% of people in Gaza live in poverty, with 80% dependent on some form of international aid. This has been exacerbated recently by severe shortages of electricity.

Israel’s occupation and its associated policies continue to inhibit the construction and maintenance of medical infrastructure and the essential services needed to promote health, such as water, sanitation and electricity. To ensure a sustainable solution to the suffering of the Palestinian people, aid must be provided parallel to diplomatic and political efforts to address the immediate and long-term barriers to Palestinians’ rights to health, including the 10-year blockade and closure of Gaza and the lack of accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the oPt.

Aimee stressed that the emergency in Gaza is man-made and the UK government has both a legal and moral obligation to take action to bring about change.

Director of Programmes at MAP, Dr Andy Ferguson, added to this, reflecting the limitations to the development of the healthcare system, with preventable health issues, such as stunting in children, a prevalent concern in Gaza.

It was discussed how the development of the Palestinian health sector is impeded by barriers to the development of its workforce. There are 21.5 medical doctors and 25.3 nurses and midwives per 10,000 people in the oPt. This contributes to the high rate of referral of patients for treatment, either to other areas of the oPt or to hospitals in Jordan, Egypt, Israel or elsewhere abroad. In many cases, this requires an Israeli-issued permit and travel, which Israel often delays or denies, leading to missed appointments and intermittent and ineffective treatment.

Israel’s permit regime also prevents many health professionals and trainees in the West Bank and Gaza from being able to travel for short or long training fellowships or conferences elsewhere in the oPt or abroad. Restrictions on access to medical equipment and materials further prevent the development of services in some areas of the oPt.

Sir Terence English went on to speak of his personal experiences in the oPt, visiting projects such as the MAP-supported limb reconstruction unit in Gaza. He discussed how MAP’s programmes help to address immediate humanitarian needs and promote the long-term development of the Palestinian health sector.

Oliver McTernan, Director of Forward Thinking, reiterated these points, noting that successful programmes need to be built on the ground with the cooperation of governments like the UK and international actors. He noted that without a political resolution, the symptoms of the occupation are simply being managed, and will not be fully resolved.

Aimee and Andy concluded by outlining MAP’s vision; a future where all Palestinians can access an effective, sustainable and locally-led system of healthcare and the full realisation of their rights to health and dignity. They noted that the UK, other influential governments and international organisations have an important role to play in addressing barriers to Palestinians’ right to health,  and need to prioritise investment in sustainable Palestinian-led health infrastructure and ensure that the root causes of the obstacles to Palestinian healthcare – including the closure and blockade of Gaza and occupation of the Palestinian territory – are brought to an end.

To find out what MAP will be discussing at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Conference in Glasgow next week click here.