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WHO delivers vital, life-saving medical items to public health services in the occupied Palestinian territory

Jerusalem, 10 May 2007- This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) began delivery of some 80 Tonnes, or 400 cubic metres, of essential medicines, consumables and laboratory supplies to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The head of the WHO office in the occupied Palestinian territory, Dr. Ambrogio Manenti, said: "these include life-saving drugs for use in a public health system which is increasingly deteriorating because of a combination of a financial crisis and a strike". The strike of health workers, mainly in the West Bank, re-started in February 2007 to draw the attention to the non payment of salaries in the public sector since March 2006.

This first batch of supplies - about 10 per cent of the items that are being procured under the project - is now being made available for distribution by the Central Drug Stores to public hospitals and clinics throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Dr.Manenti said, "this project is a life-line to many Palestinians who have been hit hard by the ongoing crisis in the Palestinian health system."

In late 2006, as a result of the financial crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, WHO became increasingly involved in pharmaceutical supply, including coordination, information, advocacy and direct procurement of pharmaceuticals. The crisis severely hindered the ability of the Ministry of Health to provide adequate health care to the Palestinian population. In an attempt to address this situation, WHO developed a project to strengthen pharmaceuticals supply and management systems at a cost of 9.8 million Euros, funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO). The project is intended to cover about a third of the Health Ministry's needs for 2007, and two-thirds of the needs for primary health care.

In addition to pharmaceutical supplies, WHO is providing a wide range of training and specialized technical assistance to the Ministry in the fields of selection, procurement, distribution and the rational use of drugs. With the generous support of ECHO, the medicines supply warehouses and distribution system will also be upgraded.

The latest figures show that 81 essential drugs and consumables are at zero stock in the West Bank, and 48 in Gaza.

More support is needed to ensure the provision of adequate health care and to prevent further deterioration of the health system.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. AMBROGIO MANENTI, 054 7 668 553. ama@who-health.org

Mr. JEAN-CHRISTOPHE AZE, 054 2 326532, jca@who-health.org