On Tuesday, 05 November 2019, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) organized a workshop on “Quality of Healthcare Services for Persons with Disabilities: GMR Causalities as an Example” attended by at least 100 experts from the Ministry of Health (MOH), international health organizations that provide rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities, rehabilitation centers, mental health organizations, civil society organizations and media. The workshop was also attended by persons who were injured at the Great March of Return (GMR) and disabled due to their injuries.
Dr. Fadel al-Muzaini, PCHR researcher, opened the workshop and emphasized it would discuss and evaluate the quality of healthcare services in light of the increased number of persons with disabilities (PWD) since the outbreak of GMR protests in the Gaza Strip. He added that the workshop is part of PCHR’s follow-up of PWD conditions and is intended to strengthen the cooperation and coordination between PCHR and civil society organizations to improve the health services provided to PWD.
Dr. ‘Azzam Sha’ath, PCHR researcher, presented PCHR report “Impact of IOF Attacks against Persons with Disabilities at GMR” (30 March 2018- 30 September 2019). He highlighted that the report documented almost all IOF attacks against PWD as well as the persons who have become with disabilities due to IOF attacks against GMR protesters. Sha’ath underscored that the report also addresses the healthcare services and psychosocial interventions provided to PWD, emphasizing that the report used primary sources such as data documented by PCHR fieldworkers and interviews conducted with specialists from MOH, PWD rehabilitation centers, international health organizations operation in the Gaza Strip and mental health organizations.
Dr. ‘Alia al-Qishawi, Head of the Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Department at MOH, talked about the direct targeting of PWD and the types of weapons used against them, pointing out that IOF aimed to kill and maim the GMR protesters, including PWD. Dr. al-Qishawi added that according to the MOH personnel dealing with injuries at hospitals, MOH noticed that IOF used different types of live bullets, unidentified teargas canisters that caused health complications to those injured, as well as other gas canisters that were used to kill and wound large numbers of GMR protesters in addition to maiming dozens of them.
Dr. Bassam Zaqout, Director of the Projects Unit at the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), said that the greatest burden lies on the civil rehabilitation centers, which provide auxiliary aids due to the declining level of government services. He added that these aids are in great demand, and PMRS exerts all efforts through its various projects across the Gaza Strip to meet their needs; however, their needs are far beyond the capacities of civil society’s health organizations operating in this field.
Mr. Qosay Abu ‘Odah, Head of Projects Unit at the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP), discussed the psychological interventions which GCMHP provide to persons injured at GMR protests, clarifying that GCMHP offered psychological first aid via its field crews and conducted 3500 field visits which targeted 12,700 persons with disabilities and their families. Abu ‘Odah said that there were field clinics established and hosted by local organizations in Gaza to follow up the conditions of wounded persons; adding that at least 1,000 of them and their families were treated at the different GCMHP branches.
In conclusion, the participants recommended compensation, redress for PWD, and demanded an immediate end to all IOF violations against them and to all attacks targeting their rehabilitation and education centers. The participants also called upon the relevant governmental and civil society organizations to provide health and psychological assistance to PWD, as well as technical and financial assistance to PWD rehabilitation centers operating in the Gaza Strip in order to ensure proper healthcare for persons with disabilities, especially those injured at GMR protests.