Health Care in the Jordan Valley

by Brother Donald Mansir, F.S.C.

image Click for more images

It was on the road to Jericho that the Good Samaritan came across the man who was beaten by robbers. A descent of some 3,000 feet from Jerusalem, the road to Jericho is narrow and full of dangerous curves.

The contrast is striking as one makes the descent: one sees a patchwork of barren wilderness juxtaposed with flourishing agricultural plots. There is little prosperity, however, for the tens of thousands of Palestinians living there.

Dangerous, maybe, but today there are still good samaritans to look after the needy. The samaritans of today are young women and men who are returning to their own villages to care for those who are isolated and lack basic health care services.

The Jordan Valley was neglected during the Jordanian and Israeli occupations of the West Bank. The area suffered from a lack of social service infrastructure, especially in education and health care. Those institutions that did exist were poorly equipped.

Children of the Palestinian farm laborers who live in the makeshift towns in the valley walk several miles to the nearest government school. There is no high school available and, until recently, there were no health care services.

In 1985, the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) established a health care center in the village of ‘Ayn A-Dyuk for more than 25,000 inhabitants living in different parts of the Jordan Valley, including: the town of Jericho, the villages of ‘Ayn A-Dyuk and A-Nu’yma and the ‘Agahat Jahr refugee camp.

Founded in 1979 by Palestinian physicians to address the health care needs of the rural population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, UPMRC is the largest non-governmental organization serving the Palestinians. All of these health care professionals, each of whom was trained abroad, are members of UPMRC and must volunteer their services. Some, in fact, leave their private practice to live in the Jordan Valley and run small clinics for these poor farm workers and their families. Currently, there are some 800 professional health care workers in 32 clinics.

The health care providers carry out both primary and preventive health care functions. They undertake community research, conduct home visits and perform simple medical procedures. Many of these health care professionals currently work in their native villages, thus overcoming cultural barriers and forging links with their communities.

Since its inception, UPMRC has placed a high value on the training of health care professionals. The union’s school for community health workers is the only one of its kind in the Occupied Territories. More than 110 young women have graduated from the one-year course and returned to their own villages to work.

In collaboration with other local and international organizations, UPMRC has conducted short and extended training courses for other health care professionals. The three-month course in community-based rehabilitation has trained more than 30 field workers to help integrate the physically and mentally disabled into their communities. In just a few years, this program has transformed the way many Palestinian communities view the disabled.

Post a Comment | Comments(0)

1 | 2 | 3 |

Tags: Gaza Strip/West Bank Palestine Health Care Occupied Territories