MAP statement to UN Human Rights Council on the right to health

This week, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s team is in Geneva for the UN Human Rights Council discussions on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The first discussion of the day was the Interactive Dialogue with the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Prof Michael Lynk. Time for this Dialogue ran out shortly before MAP was able to deliver its Oral Statement, however below is what we intended to say, updating on a year’s lack of progress in addressing the serious concerns raised in Prof Lynk’s report to the Council this time last year, on Palestinians’ right to health:

Thank you Mr President,

Medical Aid for Palestinians expresses deep concern over the worsening humanitarian and healthcare situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, and the growing barriers to Palestinians’ rights to health.

One year ago, in his report to the Council, the Special Rapporteur found Israel “in profound breach” of its obligations with regards to this right. Rather than elicit improvement, it heralded a year of further, painful deterioration.

The Special Rapporteur recommended that the Government of Israel immediately ensure reliable access to healthcare for Palestinian patients. However, 2018 saw the second-lowest ever rate of approval for permits for patients to exit Gaza, resulting in at least 10,000 missed medical appointments.

The Special Rapporteur recommended that Israel ensure the protection of medical personnel as required by international law. But the UN Commission of Inquiry found “reasonable grounds to believe that Israeli snipers intentionally shot health workers” in Gaza, with three killed and more than 600 injured.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted the plight of people with disabilities in Gaza. But they continue to be disproportionately affected by the ongoing closure, and many others have suffered life-changing injuries at the protests. MAP estimates there are up to 1,500 patients with severe limb injuries requiring up to two years of expensive surgery and rehabilitation to recover. Casualties and witnesses to traumatic events have significant mental health needs that far outstrip local capacity. 

Patients enter a collapsing healthcare system blighted by the closure, with critical shortages of medicines, equipment, electricity and generator fuel. Health workers continue to struggle to exit Gaza for training and professional development.

Despite the Special Rapporteur’s vital report and alarm bells, a year has passed and yet the health and humanitarian crisis has deepened.

With heightened urgency MAP calls on the Human Rights Council and members to:

  1. Ensure accountability for all violations of international law, including attacks on medical personnel;
  2. Demand that Israel remove the obstacles to free movement which undermine development and access to healthcare; and
  3. Take action to end the occupation and the unlawful blockade and closure of Gaza.

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