MAP at the World Health Assembly: Health of Palestinian refugees

Last week Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) attended the World Health Assembly (WHA). The WHA is the annual meeting of the World Health Organisation and features scores of meetings and events on a range of global health issues in and around the United Nations buildings in Geneva, Switzerland.

Neil Sammonds, MAP’s Advocacy and Campaigns Director, attended the WHA and was part of a dignified panel - including from Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital (remotely), The Lancet, WHO and UNRWA - discussing “Health of Palestinians and Palestinian refugees: 70 years after the Nakba (Catastrophe)”.

The panel prioritised the complex healthcare crises in Gaza, UNRWA’s unprecedented financial crisis and Neil officially launched MAP’s new report, Health in Exile: Barriers to the Health and Dignity of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon.  

UNRWA organised the event and made a recording of it which you can watch and hear:

Dr. Richard Horton, Chief Editor, The Lancet moderated the event. (00.00)
Dr Marwan Abu Saada and Dr Khamis al-Elise spoke live from Gaza’s main hospital, Al-Shifa. (07.30)

The doctors described the recent horrific injuries inflicted amongst demonstrators in Gaza. They emphasised that vascular and orthopedic surgeons in particular are exhausted.

Dr. Gerald Rockenschaub, Head of Office/ WHO occupied Palestinian territory (25.50)

I met a nurse in Gaza who walked 10km each way to work because she couldn’t afford the few shekels for transport”. Dr Rockenschaub emphasised that in Gaza the capacity for post-operative care needs to be strengthen and postponed elective surgeries and treatment for chronic illnesses need to get back on track.

Dr. Hend Harb, Head Health Centre, UNRWA Health Programme, Gaza (34.20)

Dr Harb discussed the poor mental and psychosocial health in Gaza and reflected that more young people are attempting suicide.

Mr. Neil Sammonds, Advocacy and Campaigns Director, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), UK (43.34)

Neil outlined how perpetual displacement and marginalisation has created a decades-long humanitarian crisis for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Not only are dismal socioeconomic conditions impacting their health and dignity, but a chronically under-resourced and jumbled system of healthcare is struggling to deliver adequate services.

Dr. Akihiro Seita, UNRWA Health Director & WHO Special Representative (58.30)

“I asked many young people in Gaza why they march [in the Great March of Return demonstrations}. They say "I want dignity. I want to start a new life". Do you hear young people in UK, Switzerland, Japan, saying to their parents, "I want dignity".”

Prof Alastair Ager, Director of the Institute of Global Health and Development at Queen Margaret University and Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Department of International Development (1.07.40 until 1.10.40, when there was a discussion, and again from 1.27.30)

Prof Ager discussed the resilience and liability of both UNRWA and its beneficiaries.

Ms. Batool Al-wahdani, International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), Vice President for External Affairs (1.38.50)

Ms al-Wahdani discussed the impact of violence and other violations against medical schools and students in the occupied Palestinian territory. She noted that medical universities have come under repeated attack in Gaza, including the Islamic University in Gaza.

Read MAP's new Health in Exile report