By H.E. Mai Salem AlKaila, Minister of Health
The Palestinian Ministry of Health has a clear vision as it endeavors to design and build a comprehensive health system that provides high-quality health services, enhances the overall health status, and addresses critical health determinants. The following seven principles lie the foundation of this vision: justice and equity, sustainability, the right to health, integration and partnership, financial protection, quality, and privacy.
According to the National Policy Agenda 2017–2022, entitled Putting Citizens First, our top priority is to provide all citizens with comprehensive, high-quality, and affordable health care. Several policy interventions have been implemented to achieve this objective. They include enhancing the fiscal sustainability of the healthcare system; enhancing the quality of healthcare services; and investing in infrastructure, equipment, medicines, information technology, training, and the qualifications of the healthcare workforce.
Unfortunately, the ongoing Israeli occupation and unstable political climate in the occupied Palestinian territory have significantly impacted our healthcare system. This has impeded our ability to operate efficiently, resulting in shortages of nurses, midwives, and physicians, particularly in specialized fields. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this shortage and put a further strain on our medical equipment and the systems that manage medical waste and ensure patient safety.
To respond to the pandemic and prepare for potential increases in COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Health worked closely with health and community partners to ensure a fully functional health system. This included improving the quality of health services, ensuring that all citizens have access to safe and high-quality health care, and assisting our communities in becoming more resilient.
We were able to provide an immediate response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the West Bank and Gaza Strip thanks to the Investment Programme for Resilience (IPR), funded by the Government of Germany through KfW Development Bank and implemented by the UNDP. The IPR has enabled us to provide medical equipment, deploy health personnel, and improve medical waste disposal. This intervention created temporary employment for 1,420 health professionals and delivered over 200 pieces of medical equipment and tools to various health facilities. These efforts have been instrumental in managing the emergency response to and recovery from COVID-19.
In addition, the IPR has helped us institutionalize enhanced quality and patient safety systems in the health sector, raising awareness of a culture of patient safety and contributing to a shift in the attitudes and practices of health service providers. Furthermore, we have improved the management and treatment of medical waste, thereby decreasing the risk of contamination and associated diseases while also promoting environmental conservation.
The partnership between the Ministry of Health, the UNDP, and the Government of Germany through KfW Development Bank has been instrumental in enhancing the public-health sector’s capacity to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and prepare for future health crises. We are committed to fostering partnerships, cooperation, and coordination with diverse stakeholders, including the public sector, the private sector, and the international community, in order to achieve universal health coverage and bolster our capacity to respond to health crises.