17 July 2012
Hebron, West Bank
Health reforms being piloted in Palestine refugee camps, including “family health teams”, were witnessed first-hand on a visit by Peter Baxter, Director-General of AusAID – the seventh-largest donor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). A tour of the Arroub Health Centre in the West Bank last weekend showcased how Australian contributions have helped UNRWA to adopt these innovative approaches, an outcome of the UN agency’s organisational development process.
In UNRWA health-care facilities for Palestine refugees, family health teams bring together a range of medical professionals to focus on the holistic medical needs of the entire family. Teams of doctors, nurses, and midwives are assigned to provide continuous care, building trust between patients and their providers. The closer relationships between doctors and patients have also shown success at promoting healthier lifestyles and detecting illnesses earlier – saving health care costs down the line.
“This approach is consistent with global trends in health care, providing higher-quality and more patient-centred services”, said Margot Ellis, Deputy Commissioner-General of UNRWA, who accompanied the AusAID delegation to the Arroub refugee camp. “Along with an e-health system and the implementation of electronic medical records, we are proud that UNRWA is on the cutting edge of health-care delivery in the region.”
Australia is the seventh-largest contributor to UNRWA and a member since 2005 of the Agency’s Advisory Commission, comprising major governmental supporters. A consistent multi-year supporter of the Agency through AusAID, Australia’s 2012 contribution to UNRWA’s General Fund reached USD 16 million. Steady support from donors like AusAID has allowed UNRWA to make reforms to its health programme, such as family health teams, both improving the quality of care for Palestine refugees and saving costs in the long term.
AusAID’s Director General Peter Baxter said, “Australia is proud to be partnering with UNRWA to provide life-saving health care to poor people in the Palestinian Territories. This partnership is helping to support ten million visits to the doctor each year for sick women, children, and men.”
With 138 health-care facilities, UNRWA is the primary health-care provider for Palestine refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The family health team approach is currently being piloted in three West Bank refugee camps including Arroub, to be rolled out throughout all the Agency’s health centres.
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UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions.
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