In each field of operation, refugees have diverse needs and health priorities, which UNRWA strives to meet appropriately.
As Palestine refugees’ life expectancy increases, their demography has changed, with a growing elderly population. An increasing number of refugees find themselves in the least active phases of life. Generalised poverty and unemployment aggravate the economic challenge presented to families by these developments.
In the Gaza Strip, the problem is particularly acute, with almost 90 per cent of refugees either younger than 15, or older than 65 years.
West Bank and Gaza Strip
The almost 500,000 Palestine refugees in Syria benefit from the same rights as Syrian citizens, although they are not granted national citizenship. However, the Syrian Government has recently stopped referring Palestine refugees to hospitals run by the Syrian Ministry of Health, leaving UNRWA as the sole provider of health services for this vulnerable population.
Most of the nearly two million Palestine refugees in Jordan have been granted citizenship based on criteria such as their place of origin and year of arrival in the country. They have the same access to healthcare as other Jordanian citizens.
Refugees who are not citizens, such as those who emigrated from the Gaza Strip in 1967, however, face restrictions on their access to healthcare, making them the most vulnerable group.
Lebanon hosts more than 400,000 Palestine refugees, with more than 50 per cent living in refugee camps. They are ineligible for the state’s social services, including health care, and are exposed to recurrent episodes of violence.
The employment restrictions faced by refugees, combined with the high cost of obtaining work permits, account for their protracted financial dependence.
Access to health care for these Palestine refugees is restricted to UNRWA, international organisations and the private sector. Private health care demands high fees for their services.
In Lebanon only, UNRWA has an arrangement with Palestine Red Crescent Society hospitals to guarantee equity for Palestine refugees in access to secondary health care. In all other fields, a reimbursement scheme is in place for secondary and tertiary care.
Almost two million Palestine refugees reside in the occupied Palestinian territory. This population, in particular, suffers from the long-term effects of socio-economic hardship. This is due in large part to the current closure regime which effectively restricts the movement of people and goods in and around the areas.
The fragmentation of the West Bank through settlements and military installations is increasing the disparity in public access to health care.
Infant and maternal mortality is comparatively higher, and general life expectancy lower, in the Gaza Strip compared to the West Bank.
Read about the life-cycle approach to health
Find out about the health programme’s challenges