UNRWA uses the life cycle approach in its health services, helping refugees at every stage of their lives, from preconception to active ageing.
The Agency focuses on both curative and preventative services, which include post-natal follow-up and infant care, outpatient consultations, family planning, antenatal care and oral health. Secondary prevention and management of diabetes and hypertension is provided for refugees aged over 40.
Communicable diseases are controlled through high vaccination coverage, and the early detection and control of outbreaks.
A rise in diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer and obesity is emerging as a significant threat to the ability of refugees to live long and healthy lives.
Preconception care optimises women’s health and the outcomes of pregnancy.
Couples receive counselling when planning a pregnancy and are advised to use modern family planning methods to avoid pregnancies that are too frequent, too early or too late.
With the increased role of family planning, fertility rates among Palestine refugees have steadily decreased over the past ten years, from 4.7 to 3.2 children.
Coverage by UNRWA’s mother and child health services has dramatically increased since the 1990s. Each pregnant woman has an average of 7.4 antenatal visits, which include tetanus immunisation, and screening for gestational diabetes and hypertension.
The Agency provides subsidised delivery in hospital for high-risk pregnancies. In 2010, 99.4 per cent of all pregnant women helped by UNRWA had their baby in hospital.
Mothers and newborns are followed up after childbirth, either in UNRWA health facilities or through visits at home.
UNRWA antenatal care services follow over 80 per cent of the expected pregnancies among the refugee population. Most of these women start their check-ups in the first trimester, enabling doctors to recognise complications and risk factors at an early stage. Of the pregnant women under UNRWA’s care, 99 per cent are protected against tetanus and rubella, and no cases of these diseases have been reported in the last decade.
Infant and child health
Prevention starts with health education and counselling for mothers on appropriate feeding and baby care. Infants and children under five years receive care at UNRWA health centres, including a thorough medical examination, growth monitoring, immunisation and screening for disabilities.
In the same clinics, sick children are treated by general practitioners, paediatricians and cardiologists. When a child is enrolled in an UNRWA school, a thorough medical examination including immunisation and disability screening is carried out. Particular attention is given to diseases and disabilities that can affect a child’s education, such as hearing or vision impairment. Oral health, vitamin supplementation and health education are also a priority.
The Millennium Development Goals
UNRWA is committed to the Millennium Development Goals. The fourth goal aims to reduce child and infant mortality by two-thirds of its 1990 rate by 2015.
Infant and child mortality among Palestine refugees is declining steadily, because of:
- the availability of adequate food
- improvements in water and sanitation
- close to 100 per cent vaccination coverage
- a tight network of surveillance and control of communicable diseases.
Adolescent and adult health
UNRWA provides general medical care, as well as specialist preventative and curative services, such as cancer screening, mental health programmes, oral health services and physiotherapy.
Each of the Agency’s health centres provides free diagnostic services and has a dispensary delivering free prescribed medicine. The centres have radiology units and laboratories.
Older refugees are assisted in active and healthy ageing though a set of targeted services such as screening, treatment and follow-up for diabetes, hypertension and associated complications.
As older people require constant monitoring and can be more exposed to disease, these patients attend clinics more frequently than the general population - on average eight times a year.
More on the health programme’s challenges
More on healthcare in the five fields