Founded in 1979, the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) describes itself as “a grassroots, community-based Palestinian health organization … seeking to supplement the decayed and inadequate health infrastructure [of Palestinians] caused by years of Israeli military occupation.” “Our comprehensive health programs,” adds UPMRC, “focus on the needs of the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society: women, children, and the poor in rural villages, refugee camps, and urban centers.” The organization’s staff includes physicians, community health workers, nurses, midwives, and other health professionals, many of whom volunteer their services.
Community Health Centers: UPMRC operates 25 Community Health Centers in towns and villages throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Mobile Clinics and Outreach: UPMRC mobile clinics “bring services to villages and towns under difficult circumstances, such as closure, curfews, and deprived and remote areas.”
Medical Equipment Loan Centers: UPMRC’s three Medical Equipment Loan Centers supplement the organization’s services “by providing medical equipment and assistive devices to the disabled, the elderly, and the chronically ill, among others.”
Health Education: This initiative “develops materials on a variety of topics, organizes interactive educational theater programs, launches health education campaigns, conducts … discussion and support groups, and trains community members in first aid and emergency [intervention].”
School Health: This program focuses its resources on the poorest schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
School of Community Health: This “non-profit educational institution … trains qualified Community Health Workers and provides continuing education to physicians and other health care professionals.”
Emergency First Aid: This training program seeks to establish “a national network of qualified First Aid providers who can respond to any emergency, whether during political struggle or in normal life.”
Community-Based Rehabilitation: This project aims “to change misperceptions, education the general public about disabilities and provide disabled people with the necessary skills to become more self-sufficient and integrate into the wider community.”
Chronic Diseases: This program “targets adults and focuses on screening and prevention through education, as well as treatment.”
The Well-Baby and Child Health Program: This initiative “conducts screenings, vaccinations and educational programs in order to ensure that infants and children are well prepared to live health lives.”
Women’s Health: “Through this program, women in even the most remote villages in Palestine have access to vital services such as health education, pre-natal, post-natal and family planning care, as well as a host of other basic and specialized services …”
Community Mobilization: These programs fund “a number of projects in villages and camps aiming at improving the infrastructure in these areas and creating job opportunities for those unemployed due to Israeli measures.”
Advocacy & Public Awareness: UPMRC engages in lobbying and advocacy “with the aim to influence national policies and formulate better strategies to achieve Health for All.”
UPMRC summarizes Israel’s alleged influence on Palestinian health care with the following narrative:
“All aspects of the health situation in Palestine have been affected by Israeli occupation. The 1967 war marked the beginning of the Israeli occupation of the territories and its illegal annexation of Jerusalem. … During the occupation, the Israeli administration did much to undermine health care within the Occupied Territories. Much of this was due to neglect in the form of underfunding. … The Israelis also took active measures to cripple health institutions in Palestine. … While crippling Palestine’s health infrastructure, the Israeli governmental policies continued to create health emergencies throughout Palestine. … [During the current Intifada] the Israeli government has … imposed various collective punishment measures that have served to choke the physical, mental, political, economic and social life of Palestine.”
UPMRC was a signatory to a May 15, 2002 petition calling for the creation of a Friends of the Earth “Palestine Campaign” to combat the alleged “environmental violations” of the Israeli army. The petition read, in part: “We the undersigned represent the majority of the Palestinian civil society and we are pained … by the unprecedented violations by the [Israeli] occupation and its military. Often times, daily environmental violations such as massive land sweeping have reached proportions that equal decades of similar crimes. … We continue to watch as our land and our future are destroyed, and we continue to engage the world—to demand for witnesses and voices—amidst our travesty.”
Parts of this profile are adapted, with permission, from the NGO Monitor.