WASHINGTON, January 21, 2015–Health expenditures have risen sharply in the Palestinian territories due to the recent conflict in Gaza (July-August 2014) and the increase in medical referrals abroad which has taken a heavy toll on the economy. The US$8.5 million Health System Resiliency Strengthening Project, approved today by the World Bank Group Board of Executive Directors, will support the Palestinian Authority (PA) in maintaining delivery of healthcare services and building resilience to withstand future surge in demand.
The recent conflict in Gaza has taken a great toll on the health sector. The number of casualties and wounded, the inability to keep up with housekeeping and sterilization, and the increase in the rate of infections after discharge from hospitals and primary health care facilities have added an enormous strain on Gaza's health sector which will be partly addressed by the project through the urgent financing component.
“It is now more pressing and important than ever to support the Palestinian Authority to build resilient institutions and systems,” said Samira Hillis, World Bank Senior Operations Officer and Project Team Leader. “Over a third of Palestinians living in Gaza were already poor or vulnerable when the conflict began. The war has caused extensive damage in terms of human lives and infrastructure as well as long term disabilities amounting to over 1,000 cases.”
In Gaza, the project will provide hospitals that continue to suffer from prolonged power outages with fuel and other basic necessities so that they can extend medical services to their patients. Building the resilience and capacity of the Ministry of Health will improve the efficiency and quality of the overall health sector in the Palestinian Territories and address the rise in outside medical referrals which has increased drastically in the last ten years. The project will also help define a roadmap to universal health coverage that will include a timeline and planned actions required to enhance capacity to deliver needed services, reduce system losses and ensure better quality of services.
“In recent years fiscal space available for the delivery of essential public services has gradually diminished in the Palestinian Territories mainly due to slowed economic growth and decreased donor aid,” said Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza. “The Ministry of Health has already initiated reform measures to deal with the growing and fiscally unsustainable referral expenses and we look forward to supporting more comprehensive reforms.”
The project supports standardizing processes, consolidating information flows and databases, capacity building and establishing quality facilities. It also calls for developing and implementing a strong framework for strategic purchasing of referral services. These changes to service delivery will result in improving equity and quality.