New "family health team" reforms improving UN health services across the Middle East

25 May 2012

25 May 2012
Geneva

According to a United Nations report published today, one of the largest providers of public health services in the Middle East, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has introduced a new model of health provision which is having an impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Palestine refugees.

The UNRWA report was unveiled in Geneva by the director of UNRWA’s health programme, Dr. Akihiro Seita. According to Dr. Seita, “The family health model is addressing health issues – particularly non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hyper-tension – in a holistic manner, involving the whole family in dealing with, among other things, lifestyle issues. This approach provides comprehensive community-style care with the importance of the family in mind.”

The approach started in two health centres as pilots in late 2011 and has been met with the approval of UNRWA beneficiaries. “I was truly thrilled, when I visited the centres, with the excitement shared by communities and health centre staff”, said Dr. Seita.

The approach is expanding rapidly, covering 11 health centres with 500,000 refugees (as of March 2012), with clear signs of improvement in the performance of UNRWA health services. “UNRWA’s vision is to expand the family health team approach to all 138 UNRWA health centres in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank by 2015”, Dr. Akihiro added.

The new report also gives details of the “e-health” system being introduced by UNRWA: “A few health centres are now fully equipped with e-health and paperless records in their work. E-health has allowed us to generate and to analyse data extensively. Data management capacity has also been improved, as reflected in this report. Based on these successes, we are implementing e-health throughout our family-centred health services.”

In the foreword of the report, UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi notes: “The 2011 report of the UNRWA Health Department comes at a critical juncture in the Middle East. Demands for political and social change, conflict, and economic uncertainty are transforming the region where UNRWA operates. The resulting volatility and uncertainty amplify the profound stresses of the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian situation on Palestine refugees in the Middle East.”

As the main health care provider for Palestine refugees, UNRWA’s role is to buffer the effects on health of such critical transitions, while maintaining the delivery of its regular, comprehensive, primary health care services.

Read the full report here.

- Ends -

Background information:

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.

For further information and for interview requests, please contact:

Dr. Akihiro Seita at +962-77-6760097 or a.seita@unrwa.org

Background Information

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, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 56 million.

For more information, please contact:

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