Health in Palestine

Main Health Indicators Occupied Palestinian Territory cf. Israel cf. Australia
Number of Hospitals (2013) 80
Beds per 1,000 population (2013) 1.25
Physicians per 10,000 population (2013) 23.5 31.1 38.5
Fertility rate (2013) 4.4 2.9 1.9
Infant mortality rate (under 1yr per 1,000 live births, 2013) 12.9 3 4
Child mortality rate (under 5yrs per 1,000 live births, 2013) 15.5 4 5
Maternal mortality rate (per 100,000 live births, 2013) 24.1 7 7
Life expectancy at birth 71.5 (male); 74.4 (female) 81.8 82.5

Key facts:

  • Chronic problems of the health sector are financial constraints, equipment maintenance, staff shortages, access to health facilities for staff/patients/commodities, and restrictions on construction/rehabilitation of health infrastructure. In the Gaza Strip, major additional problems have been the shortage of fuel and electricity required to operate generators and ambulances.
  • Health service provision in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is divided between two public providers (Ministry of Health & Ministry of Interior), multiple private providers (hospitals, clinics), and numerous non-government providers (including the United Nations).
  • Across the Occupied Palestinian Territories, 11% of children under five years suffered chronic malnutrition (‘stunting’), and 3.7% were underweight (2012 figures).

The Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip means…

  • At November 2012, the World Health Org. reported 35% of essential medicines and over half of medical disposables were at zero stock. Medicine shortages affect oncology treatment, surgeries and dialysis.
  • An estimated 23% of medical equipment is not functional, with repairs and maintenance denied by Israeli authorities. [WHO]
  • A 2011 assessment found 63% of primary health care and 50% of hospital infrastructure inadequate. An estimated 7 tonnes per month of medical waste is dumped in the open. [WHO]
  • Some 90 million litres of sewage is discharged from the Gaza Strip into the Mediterranean Sea every day.
  • Over 90% of the underground water aquifer in the Gaza Strip is undrinkable due to salination and contamination.


“The paramedics got out of the ambulances carrying the stretchers from the back of my ambulance… When [they] reached the place of casualties, an Israeli warplane attacked them with another missile. … I then heard a third missile while I was driving fast till I reached the hospital. … The dead paramedic, Ra’fat Abdul Aal, the child and other dead people remained in the place and our paramedics did not manage to evacuate them…”

– testimony of paramedic Yahia Hassan, Targeted Civilians: A PCHR Report on the Israeli Military Offensive against the Gaza Strip (27 December 2008-18 January 2009), Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, pp.81-82, October 2009.

Protection of Medical Personnel & Vehicles

Fourth Geneva Convention, Additional Protocol 1, 1977, ARTICLE 15:
“1. Civilian medical personnel shall be respected and protected… 3. The Occupying Power shall afford civilian medical personnel in occupied territories every assistance to enable them to perform, to the best of their ability, their humanitarian functions…”

Fourth Geneva Convention, Additional Protocol 1, 1977, ARTICLE 21:
“Medical vehicles shall be respected and protected in the same way as mobile medical units under the Conventions and this Protocol.”

Israel is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions (ratified by Israel 6 July 1951).

Download the full AUSPalestine Factsheet on the Health sector in Palestine.

See also the AUSPalestine Resources page for further information.

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