No Health without Peace: Seventy, Fifty and Ten Are Not Just Numbers in the Lives of 5.3 million Palestine Refugees

24 May 2017
UNRWA Alliance Health Centre, Damascus, Syria. © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Taghrid Mohammad.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) released the latest annual report from the Agency’s Department of Health earlier today in Geneva, revealing some important statistics regarding the UNRWA health programme (HP) and the health situation of Palestine refugees in the Agency’s five fields of operations – Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza and Syria.

According to the report, the UNRWA HP serves nearly 37,000 patients daily through its network of 143 primary health-care centres in the five fields of operations. Despite the instability in the region, the UNRWA HP continues to contribute to the protection and promotion of Palestine refugees’ health by delivering free-of-charge comprehensive preventive and curative primary health-care (PHC) services, while helping patients to access and cover the costs of secondary and tertiary health-care services. Currently, around 3.5 million Palestine refugees receive health care in UNRWA facilities.

The report also shows that maternal and child health indictors, such as vaccination coverage, early registration for preventive care and percentage of pregnant women attending at least four antenatal case visits, remain high. Moreover, screening and outreach activities for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were strengthened, and referrals to psychosocial counselors have increased.

The UNRWA Health Reform, initiated in 2011, was based on the implementation and integration of the global-best practice of the Family Health Team (FHT) approach into its PHC services. As a result, in 2016, the HP was able to consolidate the implementation of FHT reform and roll it out in four fields (Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon) – the Agency continues to work hard to achieve full roll-out in Syria. In addition, the UNRWA HP was able to integrate the electronic health records system (e-Health) in 119 health centres in 2016. These reforms have resulted in more efficient services, including the reduction of the number of medical consultations per day, shorter waiting time for patients, increased patient consultation times, improved health-care facilities, and greater satisfaction from patients and health staff. 

“To strengthen the provision of better services through the FHT model, we started in 2016 to offer training for our doctors to make them excellent family doctors as part of a general drive to strengthen our FHT model,” explained Dr. Akihiro Seita, the UNRWA Director of Health. “Fifteen UNRWA doctors in Gaza completed the Family Medicine Diploma Programme in 2016, and we are expanding this training to include more doctors in 2017. Furthermore, we are strategically using e-Health, which is now in most of our health centres, to make more rational and efficient evidence-based decisions.”

Dr. Seita added, “We are also working on the expansion of our mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programme into our FHT model. The integration of MHPSS within primary health care is a turning point for the Agency. In addition, we are making our hospitalization support more efficient and responsive to those who are in greatest need of these services.”

Nonetheless, the ongoing conflict situation in Syria, as well as the 50-year Israeli occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the 10-year blockade on Gaza, have threatened the well-being of Palestine refugees and threatened their access to necessary health care. “We realize, more than ever, the importance of and the unmistakable link between health and peace.” noted Dr. Seita.

Dr. Seita concluded, “The modernization of the UNRWA HP would not have been possible without the generous support of concerned countries, host authorities, the World Health Organization and other UN agencies, and local and international organizations, but most importantly, the dedication and commitment of our staff. We are committed to improving the well-being of Palestine refugees, and UNRWA will continue to advocate for and protect the rights of Palestine refugees, including the right to health. We also believe that there is no health without peace and that no Palestine refugee should be left behind.”


Read the full UNRWA Department of Health 2016 Annual Report.  


Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0724