Health services for Palestine refugees extended despite regional turmoil – UN agency

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he 12 health points run by UNRWA, such as this one in Jaramana Collective Shelter, Syria, offer outpatient medical consultations, continuity of care for chronic diseases and prescription services. Photo: UNRWA/Taghrid Mohammad

20 May 2015 – A newly published report by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) spotlights improved health services being delivered to millions in five fields across the Middle East, despite pronounced challenges in the region.

Indicators include a decrease in the average number of daily medical consultations per doctor, an increase in consultation times and decrease in antibiotics prescription rates.

“The indicators are impressive and show that the ‘Family Health Team’ model which our reforms have established in 99 or our 115 health centres (86 per cent) are having a real impact on the health of our beneficiaries,” said Akihiro Seita, Director of Health Department at UNRWA.

However, ongoing conflicts in Syria and Gaza and their spillover into Lebanon and Jordan have been a prominent challenge for UNRWA health workers.

“I’d like to pay tribute to the extraordinary efforts of the UNRWA health teams, working in some of the most challenging environments today,” said Dr. Seita.

Another highlighted indicator, for example, is maternal and child health. According to UNRWA’s Health Department Annual Report 2014, vaccination coverage, early registration to preventive care and percentage of pregnant women attending at least four antenatal case visits remain at a high level.

“The total number of maternal deaths among the Palestine refugee population was reduced,” explained Dr. Seita, adding that “immunization coverage rates for different target populations continued to be around 99 per cent, leading to zero percent outbreaks of immunization-preventable communicable diseases.”

The report also highlighted that diabetes campaigns have had positive results in reducing participants’ body measurements and improving blood pressures.

Despite these significant efforts, however, UNRWA continues its uphill battle to tackle conflict-related trauma and non-communicable diseases caused by unhealthy lifestyles and diets.

“These challenges exist in the face of the grim reality that our financial resources are never sufficient, and in fact are shrinking every year,” Dr. Seita commented, adding that “we will expand existing relationships with our national and international partners and donors.”

Family Health Team (FHT) is a person-centred, holistic, primary health care model designed to improve quality, efficiency and effectiveness of health services, particularly targeting non-communicable diseases.

Source: United Nations


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