UNRWA delivers basic health services and is responsible for providing a healthy living environment for Palestine refugees, guided by the Millennium Development Goals on health and by the standards of the World Health Organization (WHO).
UNRWA’s overarching goal is to enable refugees to live long and healthy lives, by:
- ensuring universal access to quality comprehensive services
- preventing and controlling disease
- protecting and promoting family health.
The Agency’s network of primary healthcare facilities and mobile clinics provides the foundation of its health services, offering preventive, general medicine and specialist care services tailored for each stage of life. In 2011, UNRWA staff performed 10.7 million medical and dental consultations.
Although UNRWA mainly focuses on primary health care, it also helps refugees access secondary and tertiary care services.
UNRWA uses the life-cycle approach in its health services, helping refugees at every stage of their lives, from preconception to active ageing.
More about the life-cycle approach
The health programme faces serious challenges, including ensuring refugees have access to healthcare.
More about the health programme’s challenges
Health in the field
In each field refugees have diverse needs and health priorities. Their access to healthcare also varies depending on their host country.
More about healthcare in the five fields
A safe and healthy environment
People’s health is significantly affected by their living environment, so UNRWA works to provide refugees with a healthy and safe environment, and the highest possible level of social security.
The Agency’s health programme has worked in collaboration with the education, and relief and social services programmes to reduce poverty, increase health awareness and fight environmental conditions that favour the spread of disease.
The environmental health programme controls the quality of drinking water, provides sanitation, and carries out vector and rodent control in refugee camps.
Modernising UNRWA health services
UNRWA has achieved some remarkable health gains for the refugee population over the past six decades. However, the context in which UNRWA works is changing:
- populations are ageing
- the burden of non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and cancer is expanding
- demand for health services is increasing
- health care costs continue to escalate.
UNRWA is addressing the challenges to ensure an effective health care system for the future, through the introduction of a family health team (FHT) approach.
This promotes comprehensive care for the whole family, focusing on long-term continuity of care and on building relationships among health care providers, patients, families and communities. Introduction of the new approach is in keeping with health system modernisation efforts in other countries in the region.
The FHT approach involves a team of health professionals working together to serve the comprehensive health needs of a defined population:
- Each team consists of a doctor, one or more nurses, and a midwife.
- Families are registered with a FHT and patients are always seen by their team, promoting quality and continuity of care.
- The FHT approach includes the introduction of an appointment system, to reduce waiting times for patients and to enable team members to manage their time efficiently, ensuring enough time for a quality consultation.
Health at a glance
- 138 primary health care centres
- 3,595 health staff
- 117 dental clinics
- 10,699,571 million annual patient visits
Figures as of 1 January 2012