The World Health Organisation warned of dire consquences for Palestinian public health services because of Israeli economic sanctions and threatened cuts in international aid.
‘In the worst-case scenario, if needed funds are not received, the Palestinian ministry of health will enter an acute financial crisis,’ a report unveiled in Jerusalem said.
The report, released to mark World Health Day on Friday, listed the possible consequences of slashed aid from the international community in the wake of Hamas's rise to power, and Israeli sanctions.
It warned that the public health system in the West Bank and Gaza Strip could enter a ‘rapid decline’ and head towards ‘possible collapse’ with 57 percent of all health workers paid by the cash-strapped Palestinian health ministry.
Hundreds of public health clinics would be effected, including up to 252 maternal and paediatric clinics, leading to a drastic reduction of the services they can provide and threatening their closure, the report found.
Child immunisation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, post-natal, delivery and health education were just some of the programmes that risk being affected.
The report was presented a day after Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya admitted his new Hamas-led government faced a cash crisis and that he would struggle to find the money to pay government employees.
Unless health workers are paid, the report predicted a drain of professionals to the private sector, a severe shortage of drugs and medical supplies, and an increased proportion of patients having to pay for treatment.
The WHO also cited concern over increased unemployment, worsening sanitation and an exacerbated risk of infection, ‘resulting in increased physical and psycho-social problems and social unrest’ as well as nutritional problems.
The European Union and United States have threatened to drastically cut aid unless the new Hamas-led government recognises Israel, renounces violence and abides by previous peace agreements.
As part of a series of sanctions, Israel has stopped handing over customs duties that it traditionally collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and that are worth around 50 million dollars a month.