Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Disparity between health levels in Palestine and Israel

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Prevalence of disease

According to the Global Burden of Disease study carried out between 1990 and 2013 there exist gross disparities between the health of Palestinians and Israelis (Humanosphere August 2014). The biggest discrepancies found were in cardio and circulatory disease prevalence and neonatal issues - five times as much in Palestine and diabetes and endocrine diseases which are twice as prevalent amongst Palestinians as Israelis. Although the disparity between child deaths among the two populations has been diminishing over time, the rate among Palestinian children is still 5 times as much as among Israeli children in 2013 with maternal mortality double the rate in Palestine.  There is also a significant difference between the numbers of mental health suffers in Palestinian territories versus in Israel – figures that Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) associates with a high prevalence of anxiety among Palestinians under the continuous mistreatment by IDF forces.

There were found to be many poverty-related and conflict-related afflictions with diarrhoea and infectious diseases much higher (up to 5 times) among the Palestinians as well as low rates of nutrition (5 times as much among Palestinians) which along-side poor housing and low incomes exacerbate the rate of avoidable illnesses. This has contributed to a greater scale of early death with general life expectancy (outside of conflict) around 5 years less among Palestinians that Israelis, 75 to 81, respectively – and an over 65 population of 3.2% in Palestine and 10.5 in Israel (World fact book). 

Further details and a breakdown can be found at

Health provision and access

The general health level among Israelis is on average more comparable to Europe, currently higher than in Italy or Spain (Humanopsphere, August 2014), with health spending currently at USD$ 2,071 per capita  or 7.7% of GDP similar to that of Luxembourg (World fact book) with universal health care in place since 1995. Conversely Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are provided health care through UN agencies, specifically UNWRA and humanitarian organisations such as MSF and the ICRC – but these can cost and do have some notable conditions.  The WHO estimated that 58% of the health sector in Gaza was damaged during Operation Protective Edge with specific medical concerns arising such as the increase of water-borne diseases as a result of over-crowding in shelters; complications for casualty patients including through lack of water and electricity and a decline of physical and mental health from the extended emergency period without improvements to access to health or the overall living conditions in Gaza (WHO 21st August 2014).

Health facilities and provision in Israel do not seem to be greatly affected, if at all, by hostilities and conflict while facilities in Palestine are currently also suffering from shortages in drugs – 28% of essential medicines were at zero stock and 16% at very low with anaesthesia and sutures at only 54% of that required – according to the Pharmacy director general in Gaza (WHO, 2014). The medical journal The Lancet found that poor families in Palestine had little access to medical treatment in Israel – made worse by the barrier erected by Israel within the West Bank and with Gaza – and that a fifth of access requests were either denied or delayed by the Israeli authorities.  Within Israel too, Israeli Arabs were found to experience health services differently.  Here economic factors were found to play less of a role than exclusionary policies towards non-Jews were found to be the cause with lower rates of insurance cover for Arabs (Chernichovsky and Anson, 2005) and subsequent fewer referrals to consultants for non-Hebrew speakers. 

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