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WHO: Palestinian cancer patients in Gaza wait months for Israel permits

Female cancer patients in the Gaza Strip go on hunger strike in protest of an Israeli decision not to allow them to travel through the Erez crossing to seek medical care in Israel [Mohammed Asad/Midle East Monitor]
Palestinian cancer patients take part in a protest to demand travel for treatment as Israeli authorities often refuse [Mohammed Asad/Midle East Monitor]

Israeli occupation authorities are subjecting Palestinian cancer patients in the Gaza Strip to months-long delays before granting travel permits to leave the blockaded territory, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“After being diagnosed with cancer, patients in Gaza may often have to wait for months before being able to receive treatment,” this week’s WHO update stated.

Getting a permit to access the health care needed outside can be a stressful and unpredictable process, and many apply multiple times before being able to exit. Even then, some patients are never able to secure the permits they need to access care

the WHO added.

Israel’s occupation and blockade has meant that “the ability of Gaza’s hospitals to provide adequate diagnosis and treatment to cancer patients is severely limited due to chronic shortages of medicines and lack of medical equipment.”

As a result of this depletion, the WHO continued, “many patients need health care elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory or abroad” – but “to leave the Gaza Strip for treatment, they must obtain a permit from Israeli authorities”.

Such a process “can take up to several months, and even then some patients may be unsuccessful in securing access to travel for health care”. In 2018, the WHO stated, 39 per cent of patient applications for permits to exit Gaza for health care were unsuccessful.

READ: 8,515 cancer patients in Gaza

“Every cancer patient has the right to health,” the WHO affirmed. “This means being able to access quality and acceptable health care and to enjoy the conditions of life that support staying healthy.”

“Restrictions to accessing essential health services are one of the major barriers to the right to health for Palestinians” living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“Restrictions affect cancer patients at a vulnerable point in their lives, when they need specialist care and services for diagnosis and treatment. The World Health Organisation calls for the protection and fulfilment of the right to health for all Palestinians,” the update finished.

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