Comprehensive Services for Palestinian Women

Box 20

Only a few of the 80 health facilities in the Gaza Strip provide reproductive health services. In 1995, there was no family planning clinic. A 1992 survey found more than 30 per cent of pregnant women lacked access to adequate prenatal care. More than half the deliveries were not attended by trained midwives, according to the Israeli Ministry of Health. Only 17 to 30 per cent of women received post-natal care. And screening for breast and cervical cancer was almost nonexistent.

In December 1995, with UNFPA support, a Women’s Health Centre was established in the Al-Bureij Refugee Camp between Gaza City and Khan Yunis. Based on a comprehensive approach to women’s well-being, the project provides previously unavailable reproductive health services, including pre- and post-natal care, safe delivery and family planning, as well as social assistance, legal counselling (on divorce, for instance), psychiatric support, and community education and physical fitness programmes.

Said one regular client, "If one method of family planning does not work for us, the doctor will recommend another type, teach us how to use it and will keep working with us until something works."

The centre now has 2,200 regular visitors. There is free transportation for women who live in remote areas, and 10-15 pregnant women each month receive home visits. Its activities are supported by the Culture and Free Thought Association, a local Palestinian NGO, in cooperation with the Italian Association for Women in Development. The centre holds weekly lectures on such topics as smoking, abortion, breastfeeding, anaemia, violence in the family, social conservatism, menopause, sexual education (for both women and men), postpartum depression, labour rights, women and divorce, inheritance and dowries. It also provides a confidential forum where female teenagers can discuss traditionally taboo issues, such as incest and rape.

Source: Manal Jamal. 1997. "By Women, For Women: Comprehensive Services for Palestinian Refugees." Populi 24(1): 8-10.