On 16 December 2009, Adalah filed a petition to the Supreme Court of Israel against the Ministry of Health (MOH) to demand the cancellation of its decision to close down “mother and child” clinics in the three unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages of Qasr el-Ser, Abu Tulul and Wadi el-Niam in the Naqab (Negev). Adalah requested that the court order the MOH to reopen the clinics immediately, and appoint doctors and nurses to work in them. Adalah further demanded that the court hold an urgent hearing on the petition, given the dangers to the lives of thousands of pregnant women, mothers and children living in these villages associated with the closure of the clinics.
Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher submitted the petition in Adalah’s name and on behalf of 11 women from the three villages, the heads of the local councils, the Yasmin organization in the Naqab, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and the Galilee Society: The Arab National Society for Health Research and Services.
The MOH 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 MOH 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.
One of the petitioners is a woman from Qasr el-Ser and mother of eight children, the youngest of whom is one year and three months old; her husband died five months after the birth of their youngest child. She has been living in an extremely difficult economic situation following the death of her husband. She does not own a car and is not able to pay for a car to travel to the town of Dimona for her child to receive the necessary immunizations, exposing him to danger.
The health situation in the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages in the Naqab is extremely poor, particularly among women and children. For example, the death rate is the highest in the country, and there is an extremely low average birth weight among babies, the lowest in the country. Many children do not receive the immunizations mandated by the MOH, and the rate of infectious disease is the highest in Israel. A report issued by the MOH on the health of children aged six and younger in the Naqab recommended nutritional education programs and programs to promote immunizations and breast-feeding. All of these services are provided by mother and child clinics.
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. 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. Ministry of Health