UNRWA uses the life-cycle approach in its health services, helping Palestine refugees at every stage of their lives, from pre-conception to active ageing.
The Agency focuses on both curative and preventive services, which include postnatal 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 Palestine refugees over age 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 Palestine refugees to live long and healthy lives.
Pre-conception care optimizes 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 maternal and child health services has dramatically increased since the 1990s. Each pregnant woman has an average of 7.4 antenatal visits, which include tetanus immunization and screening for gestational diabetes and hypertension.
The Agency provides subsidized hospital delivery for high-risk pregnancies. In 2010, 99.4 per cent of all pregnant Palestine refugee women registered with the Agency delivered in a hospital setting.
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 Palestine refugee population. Most of these women start their check-ups in the first trimester, enabling doctors to recognize complications and risk factors at an early stage. Of the pregnant women under UNRWA care, 99 per cent are protected against tetanus and rubella, and no cases of these diseases have been reported in the last decade.
Prevention starts with health education and counselling for mothers on appropriate feeding and baby care. Infants and children under 5 receive care at UNRWA health centres, including a thorough medical examination, growth monitoring, immunization 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 immunization 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.