Listen to MAP’s Health Under Occupation event with UN Special Rapporteur

Last month Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and Amnesty International UK were honoured to host the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), Prof Michael Lynk for a discussion of how protracted occupation is obstructing Palestinians’ right to health. His discussant for the evening was Julie Elliott, Member of Parliament for Sunderland Central, who recently visited the occupied West Bank on a delegation with Caabu and MAP.

You can listen to Prof Michael Lynk and Julie Elliott’s discussion in full below:

The evening began with Prof Michael Lynk giving an overview of his role as a UN Special Rapporteur. He explained that there are 56 UN Human Rights Council ‘Special Procedures’ mandate holders, 44 focusing on thematic human rights issues and 12 with a country-specific mandate. Appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2016, Prof Lynk’s mandate focuses on human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

The UN Special Rapporteur outlined the themes in four published reports:the right to health, the legality of occupation, Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders and the right to development. He and Julie Elliott MP then explored his latest report, discussing how he found Israel to be “in profound breach” of Palestinians’ right to health.

The pair paid particular attention to the humanitarian emergency in Gaza, with Prof Lynk emphasising that “it is not a natural disaster, [it is] entirely man made.” The Special Rapporteur described how Gaza’s health system is struggling to cope under a decade of blockade and closure, with longstanding shortages of essential medicines and supplies, electricity and fuel. He highlighted the recent closure of services at three Gaza hospitals due to a lack of funds to keep emergency backup generators running, as well as the increasing public health threat from untreated sewage.

When discussing the severe shortage of electricity in Gaza, Prof Lynk encouraged audience members to search online for night-time satellite images of the Eastern Mediterranean. He reflected “where Gaza is, you will see wane pinponts of light where two million people are living. If they were living in a fully functional society, with all the attributes of even a modest income country, that would be a blaze of light.”

Prof Michael Lynk emphaised that, with such severe impediments to healthcare inside Gaza, it is crucial that patients are able to move freely to other areas of the oPt – such as East Jerusalem – where care is available. He stressed, however, that patients in Gaza face significant barriers to accessing care, with Israeli authorities issuing a record-low rate of permits for Palestinians seeking medical treatment outside Gaza last year.

Julie Elliot MP asked Prof Lynk about the specific impact occupation has on the health of Palestinian children. Lynk emphasised that life under occupation is particularly damaging to children’s mental wellbeing, with many exposed to violent conflict, or arrested and detained by the Israeli military.

Prof Lynk concluded the event by highlighting the importance of international law for the realisation of Palestinians’ right to health, saying: "It supports those who believe in justice and aligns with those who want to see an end to occupation." He urged members of the audience to support Palestinians’ health and dignity by raising awareness of the issues he discussed by contacting their MPs and organising meetings and events.

To email your MP and demand accountability for violence against Gaza protesters click the link below.

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