|February 15th marks International Childhood Cancer Day (ICCD), a global collaborative day created as an annual event by the Childhood Cancer International (CCI) in 2002. This year’s campaign is launched under the theme “Better Survival” to raise awareness about the risks of cancer, the challenges facing children with cancer through prevention, early detection and appropriate treatment of cancer as well as supporting their families.
On this occasion, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) draws attention to the suffering of the Palestinian children with cancer, including 350 children living in the Gaza Strip and facing a difficult and lengthy journey of treatment due to the Israeli occupation authorities’ practices and the repercussions of the Palestinian political division. These children suffer from the Israeli-imposed restrictions on their travel with their companions for treatment outside the Gaza Strip. They also suffer from lack of specialized medical personnel, poor diagnostic equipment, and lack of many treatment protocols and medical supplies.
Children with cancer receive medical care at Al-Rantisi Hospital, the only hospital that provides pediatric cancer treatment in the Gaza Strip yet suffers from a perpetual shortage in the list of essential drugs and many important medical equipment used for diagnosing cancer, as the hospital services are only limited to chemotherapy, supportive treatments and other healthcare services. This forces patients to complete their treatment in hospitals outside the Strip, and so their suffering from the Israeli restrictions on their travel begins. Leukemia is the most common cancer affecting children in the Gaza Strip, where 86 children with leukemia received treatment last year while 182 children continue treatment in the post-recovery phase on a regular basis at Al-Naser and Al-Ranitisi Pediatric Hospitals. 
The restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation authorities on the travel of children and their companions for treatment abroad are among the most prominent obstacles that prevent children from receiving treatment. In 2022, IOF obstructed 272 out of 1000 requests (i.e. 28% of the total number of applications) for children referred for treatment abroad, leading to the death of 3 children due to obstructing their travel by the Israeli occupation. Meanwhile, in the same year 16 children died with cancer in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli authorities prevent a number of parents from accompanying their children for treatment outside the Gaza Strip. Since the beginning of 2018 to 2021, 43% of the children referred for treatment abroad had to travel without one of their parents because their requests to travel via Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing were denied or delayed. This hereby affects the mental health of these children who already suffer from serious health conditions and in dire need of one of their parents as a companion during their treatment.
Moreover, the ongoing Palestinian political division causes the level of health services provided by hospitals and healthcare centers for cancer patients in the Gaza Strip to deteriorate, impeding the localization of health services, the adoption of a medicines policy that ensures the availability of treatment for all citizens, and the provision of all medical equipment for the governmental health facilities. All of this is due to not allocating sufficient and necessary budgets to cover the shortage of essential medicines and medical equipment needed for the treatment of cancer patients. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH) in Gaza, the list of essential drugs used for the treatment of patients with cancer and blood disorders that are at zero-stock reached (37%), as 23 out of the 63 types of essential drugs ran out in December 2022.
Around 9,000 cancer patients in the Gaza Strip suffer from disastrous health conditions due to the acute shortage of medicines and medical supplies required for their treatment at Gaza hospitals. On the other hand, the Israeli occupation authorities continue to impose restrictions on the entry of new medical devices and laboratory materials necessary for cancer patients’ tests. These challenges deny patients’ access to treatment services appropriate to their serious health status. Also, the MOH expects to record (2000) new cancer cases in 2023 while the number of cancer patients recorded in 2021 was 1952 in the Gaza Strip. Additionally, there were 610 deaths recorded in the same year.
PCHR emphasizes that cancer patients in the Gaza Strip, including children, should enjoy their fundamental rights, including the early and accurate diagnosis, right to have essential life-saving drugs, right to receive adequate and qualitative treatment, and to have “better survival” opportunities for recovered patients. On this occasion, PCHR is deeply concerned over the lives of children with cancer in the Gaza Strip. Thus, PCHR:
for more information, please call PCHR office in Gaza, Gaza Strip, on +972 8 2824776 – 2825893
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