24 November 2011

Following Adalah's Petition: Ministry of Health Reopens Mother and Child Clinic in the Unrecognized Arab Bedouin Village of Wadi al-Nam in the Naqab

In response to a petition filed by Adalah to the Supreme Court, the Israeli Ministry of Health has announced that it will reopen a "Mother and Child Clinic" in the unrecognized Arab Bedouin village of Wadi al-Nam in the Naqab (Negev), following its closure in October 2009. The clinic was closed, according to the ministry, because it was unable to find doctors and nurses willing to work in it. Two other two clinics were closed for the same reason however they were reopened several months ago, in the villages of Abu-Tlul and Qasr al-Sir.

The three clinics were all reopened following a petition submitted by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher in December 2009 on behalf of 11 Arab Bedouin women from the Naqab, the head of the local committee of Qasr al-Sir, and NGOs Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Yasmeen Al-Naqab for Promoting the Health of Women and the Family, and the Galilee Society.

In its response to the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Health stated that the clinic in Wadi al-Nam would only operate on a partial basis, staffed by two nurses for one day per week.

Attorney Zaher welcomed the decision to reopen the clinics, stating, "We hope that the Ministry of Health will increase and improve the health services that these clinics provide to the residents of the Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab, especially the unrecognized villages, to compensate them for the many years of neglect that they have faced, particularly in recent years, following the closure of the clinics. We presented the court and the minister with reports that prove the poor health situation in the Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab, which causes grave harm to the health of their residents."

The Ministry of Health closed the clinics, which served around 18,000 people in October 2009, claiming there was a lack of nurses and doctors who are willing to work in these centers. The ministry proposed that the Arab Bedouin women in these villages go to Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) or neighboring Jewish towns located at least 20 kilometers from their homes. The distances involved and the total lack of public transport to and from the unrecognized villages has meant that women have stopped going to receive the health services provided by the clinics. The clinics offer preventive health services and specialize in post-natal care. Adalah stressed that the closure of the clinics causes serious harm to the health of the women, children and unborn babies, and potentially their lives. It violates the constitutional rights of the women and children to life, bodily integrity, health and dignity.

The three clinics shut down are part of a group of six clinics which were established in the unrecognized villages in the Naqab following a petition submitted by Adalah to the Israeli Supreme Court in 1997 (see HCJ 7115/97, Adalah, et al. v. The Ministry of Health, et. al.). The MOH evaded its commitment and the court's decision for several years, but Adalah continued to pursue the issue until the MOH to set up these clinics in 2000 and in 2001.

Case Citation: HCJ 10054/09, Wadad El-Hawashly, et al. v. The Ministry of Health

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