Besieging the Health Services in Gaza: A Profitable Business

Corporate Watch’s  full briefing Besieging Health Services in Gaza: A Profitable Business can be downloaded for free here or order a paper copy

Even before the latest Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip, which has killed over 2000 Palestinians to date,  Gaza’s health services were folding under the pressure of the illegal siege imposed by Israel and Egypt.  When the research group Corporate Watch visited the strip during November and December 2013, we talked to The Union of Health Work Committees (UHWC), The Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) as well as a representative from the Ministry of Health (MOH) about the difficulties faced by health service professionals trying to provide care under increasingly difficult circumstances. What emerged was a complex web of obstacles which prevent the people of Gaza from having access to proper health care, and a situation where Israel profits from besieging the health services in Gaza. Since this report was published in March, the situation has worsened significantly as a result of ’Operation Protective Edge’, which has targeted multiple hospitals as well as ambulances and Gaza’s only power plant.

Health impacts of the siege

The Corporate Watch briefing outlines how Israel’s siege affects the health of the people of Gaza, including in the following ways:

  • Health services, health workers and their patients are subject to direct military attacks.
  • Health services have a shortage of medicines, fuel, medical equipment and spare parts for machinery as a result of the siege.
  • Sick patient are often prevented from travelling outside of Gaza to obtain treatment.
  • The fuel shortage means that some services have been reduced and that financial strain is put on the health services which have to run on generators, putting patients in danger.
  • Health workers are often unable to go abroad for training and foreign delegations are unable to enter Gaza, isolation Gaza’s services from the rest of the world.
  • The critical shortage of clean water, partly caused by the siege, has a detrimental effect on people’s health.
  • The economic effects of the siege have limited the amount of money people have to spend on their health needs.

A profitable business

The briefing also outlines how Israel profits economically from the siege of Gaza’s health services

  • Israeli pharmaceutical companies benefit from the captive market created by the blockade.
  • Revenue is created by the transport of goods through Israel to Gaza. Since the closure of the tunnels from Egypt, and because of the almost complete closure of goods coming via the Rafah crossing from Egypt, all medical supplies to Gaza must enter via Israel which benefits Israeli transport companies.
  • Health services in Gaza are required to pay for storage of equipment in Israeli whilst it undergoes lengthy Israeli security checks, often taking many months.
  • Since the closure of the tunnels Israeli companies have supplied all fuel used in Gaza. The health services are currently forced to buy fuel for generators to keep services running.

Take Action

The only thing that could permanently improve the health services in Gaza would be an end to the siege and it is up to people around the world to make that happen.  One of the most effective ways of working towards this end is to join the movement for the boycott, divestment and sanctions [BDS] of Israel and the health workers we talked to in Gaza called on the international community to do so. Despite the significant difficulties faced by the health services in the Gaza Strip all the organisations represented in the briefing said that they had a policy to try to boycott Israeli medicines except where a medicine was needed in order to protect life and unavailable via other sources, and they were keen for people around the world to increase the boycott pressure.  Dr Mona El Farra from PRCS told Corporate Watch:

“The growing of the BDS movement is a strong way of resisting the injustice that has been imposed on the Palestinian people for decades. As physicians, our role goes beyond medical services, so it is important and crucial to remind all health workers and pharmaceutical companies to join the campaign of boycotting companies that have strong ties with Israel. Teva is one example here”.

Teva is Israel’s largest pharmaceutical company, the largest company on the Tel Aviv stock exchange and the world’s largest supplier of generic drugs. According to Teva, the company provides one in six prescriptions supplied by the NHS in the UK. As most Teva medicines are generic drugs, there are usually alternative available from other suppliers.

A first step for campaigners should be to persuade doctors and pharmacists in the UK that people are not happy with being prescribed medicines made by Teva. When given Teva generics, BDS campaigner could ask for alternatives and explain why they are making this choice.

There are currently two dedicated boycott Teva campaigns in the UK. The Boycott Teva Pharmaceuticals group, which was set up just over a month ago, aims to persuade health professionals to shun Teva medicines for other generic alternatives. According to the group over 100 pharmacies nationwide have already joined the boycott and there are more to come.  There is also the Stop Teva from bleeding the NHS and the Palestinian people community, which has similar aims.

There has also been a long running campaign in France against Teva.

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