|© UNICEF OPT/2008/ Halawani|
|A health worker vaccinates a young child in Beit Fourik, a village in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.|
By Monica Awad
BEIT FOURIK, Occupied Palestinian Territory, 8 August 2008 – Beit Fourik, a tiny village in the north of the West Bank, is home to around 13,000 people, with a high percentage of young people under the age of eighteen. The main entry and exit point is a manned checkpoint.
Suzane Mleitat, a mother of six children, comes to the village health clinic with her nine-month-old baby.
“The immunization services here are very good, however, when one of my children is sick, we often times cannot find a physician,” said Ms. Mleitat.
The problem of access
Beit Fourik clinic provides mother and child health care services including immunization.
One doctor who works at the clinic three times a week says that he is often delayed at the checkpoint and has even been denied entry.
“The main problem for us at the clinic is access through the checkpoint. It affects the availability of our physician,” says Nurse Leila Nassasra, who has worked at the clinic for more than 25 years.
Supporting mothers and children
The Occupied Palestinian Territory has routine vaccination coverage of more than 90 per cent. The absence of common childhood diseases such as measles and polio reflect the commitment of the Palestinian Authority towards Palestinian children.
UNICEF and its partners support that commitment. This year, the Government of Japan has donated 2.4 million dollars to ensure that 117,000 newborns and pregnant women are vaccinated.
The money will also be used to train health workers, especially in the evaluation of infectious diseases and to ensure that they have sufficient supplies and equipment.
Optimistic about a better future
Despite this support, clinics all over the West Bank and Gaza face many challenges.
“The first challenge is access, making sure that children have access to quality care and quality services for prevention and care of children and women,” said UNICEF OPT Chief of Health Dr. Samson Agbo.
Mothers like Ms. Mleitat are optimistic.
“I hope that peace and security will prevail and we will be united in order to live like all people of the world," she says. "I hope for our children to live a happy life.”