The current freeze in medical referrals to Israel and the West Bank, as well as minimal referrals to Egypt and Jordan is having disastrous effects on the health of the Gazan population.
Israel's ongoing siege policies have crippled the medical field in Gaza, causing major shortages in medicine and well-trained experts.
In addition equipment is breaking, with no replacements parts available, making tertiary care almost non-existent.
This situation renders healthcare that is available near Gaza too distant.
The only hope for Gazans suffering from serious illnesses is to get treatment abroad, and often Israel is the best option, given the high quality of the medical facilities and its proximity to Gaza, compared to Egypt, Jordan, and the West Bank.
The referral process has until recently been coordinated by the Ministry of Ramallah, however, since 18 January 2009 the Ministry has not been issuing new referrals to Israel, forcing patients to travel farther and receive a lesser quality of medical care.
On 22 March 2009 the Ministry of Health in Gaza took over the Department of Referrals Abroad (DRA), after criticizing the way that referrals were being given, accusing the Ramallah Ministry of corrupt practices.
Israel does not recognize the government in Gaza as a legitimate power and therefore the referrals issued by its Ministry of Health are not being accepted and patients are not allowing to enter Israel.
As a result, since the takeover of the DRA, the citizens of Gaza are not able to receive any healthcare in Israel or the West Bank.
In addition, the patients are experiencing hardship receiving healthcare in Egypt and elsewhere abroad.
This report examines the deteriorating healthcare system in Gaza, and the hardships facing patients needing treatment aboard.
Already at least 11 patients have died since January solely because they were not able to receive the healthcare they needed and were unable to exit the Gaza Strip to seek medical care outside.
The report also looks at the failed negotiation efforts and urges Israel, the Government in Ramallah and in Gaza, and the international community to immediately resolve this standstill in the referral process, which continues to take the lives of civilians.
The longer this issue remains unresolved, the longer the right to life and to health of the Gazan population is being violated.
The full report is available at: So Close Yet Unattainable: Lack of Access to Healthcare outside Gaza http://www.