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Palestinians: Health Services

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment has been made of the availability of medicines and medical supplies in Gaza; and if he will make a statement. (253962)

The United Nations reports that many medicines and medical supplies are generally available. However there are critical shortages of, for example, certain anaesthetics and essential medical equipment such as defibrillators and syringe pumps.

Gaza's health infrastructure has long been under severe strain due to the restrictions on access for people, commercial goods and humanitarian supplies. Going forward repairing and maintaining health facilities will be a priority. Frequent power cuts and subsequent reliance on generators increases the risk of damaging medicines that need consistent temperature regulation, as well as of harming patients dependent on medical equipment in intensive care. The conflict has exacerbated all these problems as restrictions on Gaza's borders have been further tightened.

The UK Government have repeatedly raised the issue of allowing enough humanitarian supplies and fuel into Gaza with the Israeli Government. We are also supporting organisations that provide direct medical treatment to the sick and injured such as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). UNRWA has 18 health centres in Gaza and ICRC’s medical teams were among the first to be allowed in during the conflict.