06/03/15

PHM meeting in Gaza focuses on future tasks

Fifteen local health activists met in the evening of March 1, 2015 with the People's Health Movement (PHM) solidarity delegation to Palestine. Among them were people from different local organizations like the Palestinian Medical Relief Society, the Union of Health Work Committees, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Also dr. Mahmoud Daher from the local WHO office attended the meeting.
The challenge now is to educate a new generation of health activists

Chiara Bodini from Italy and PHM representative for the European region gave an introduction about the history of the People's Health Movement and seized the opportunity to present the Global Health Watch 4, the latest volume in the series of alternative world health reports. Dr. Aed Yaghi outlined the way Palestinian civil society has engaged with PHM so far. 

Local health activists agreed that the struggle for health in Gaza is a struggle at two levels. On the one hand there are the local issues with the local government's failure to ensure access to health care and the right to health for all. On the other hand, it would be impossible to realize the right to health as long as Palestine is not free and lives under occupation.

The issue of potable water was identified as one of the key issues for health in Gaza. According to research, the aquifer will be irreversibly damaged unless immediate action is taken. The contamination with sea water is endangering the access to potable water.

Health activism in Palestine has a long tradition but the challenge is now to educate the new generation. The local activists have to encourage the new generations to speak out on health issues like privatization. Moreover, health activism in Gaza can never been separated from the issues of Palestinians in the other occupied territories and the Palestinian refugees abroad.

The local health activists were grateful for the solidarity members of the PHM have shown in the past and recognized the network's potential to build solidarity on health and related issues. Someone mentioned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as an example of a campaign that could be promoted through the PHM.

It was stressed, however, that solidarity works both ways and some participants were critical of the local civil society's attitude to focus exclusively on the issue of Palestine.  Although this attitude is understandable, it shouldn't exclude solidarity from the Palestinian activists with struggles in other countries. Social determinants of health are the same everywhere, one of the activists said, and therefore there are always links to be made.

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