| NEWS UPDATE
10 November 2009
Adalah to Health Ministry: Closing Down Three Mother and Child Clinics Serving 15,000 Arab Bedouin living in the Naqab Violates their Right to Health and Equality
On 22 October 2009, Adalah sent an urgent letter to the Deputy Minister of Health (MOH) demanding the reopening of the Mother and Child health clinic in the Arab Bedouin unrecognized village of Qasr el-Ser in the Naqab (Negev). The MOH closed the clinic last month claiming a lack of nurses and doctors who are willing to work in these centers. Adalah sent a further letter to the Deputy Minister demanding the reopening of two additional clinics in the unrecognized villages of Abu Tlul and Wadi el-Niam, following their recent closures for the same reason. The MOH proposes that the Arab Bedouin women in these villages go to Beer Sheva or other cities in the south to receive these services. The letters were sent by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher.
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. The MOH evade their 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. The clinics offer Arab Bedouin women and children who are citizens of Israel preventive health services. They specialize in post-natal care.
In the letter, Adalah argued that a lack of public transportation linking these villages to Beer Sheva and other cities, the lack of private car transport, as well as other factors makes access to health care clinics for women and children outside of their villages extremely difficult.
The letter included updated data from a report published by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel in 2008 entitled, "Ana Huna – Gender and Health in the Unrecognized Villages of the Negev”. The report notes that the mortality rate among Arab Bedouin children in these villages is the highest in the country and reaches to 14.7 deaths per 1000 live births, while the rate in the Israeli Jewish community does not exceed 3.9 deaths per 1000 births. Further, the proportion of children in the unrecognized villages with low birth weight (less than 2.5 kg) is the highest in the country, and extends to 10% of the births, while the national rate does not exceed 8.2%. Attorney Zaher argued that this data greatly increases the importance of Mother and Child clinics and the preventive services they provide, and their closure violates the National Health Insurance Law - 1995, which obliges the MOH to make these preventive health services accessible and available to everyone.