The Ultimate Barrier: Impact of the Wall on the Palestinian health care system

An abandoned house in Bethlehem stands in the middle of lands cleared for the Apartheid Wall’s path. In the lower image, taken two weeks later, a 250 meter stretch of Israel’s West Bank Barrier has already been constructed. The Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign reports that, “In one of the more horrifying examples of how quickly the Apartheid Wall is being built, some 250 metres of Wall have been erected in only 2 weeks in Bethlehem. The first set of images were taken on March 14th in the Northern Bethlehem, Beit Jala area. Only two weeks later, on March 30th, a quarter kilometer stretch of 8 metre high Wall ran through the area. The families about to be isolated by this section of the Wall reported that the work had been stopped for almost a week at that point, as the construction crew had uncovered an archeological site, so really the work had been completed in a mere 8-10 days.”

The Ultimate Barrier: Impact of the Wall on the Palestinian health care system


Since June 2002, the construction of the Wall has steadily added another layer of obstacles isolating, fragmenting and thus deteriorating the Palestinian health care system.

In order to address some of the health impacts of the Wall, Medecins du Monde (MDM)-France started the Wall response program in May 2004. The organization has supported emergency medical transport services in Aizaria (East Jerusalem), Women and Children mobile health clinics in 11 villages in the West Bank, and monitors the health impact of the Wall, in close collaboration with local partners.

In conjunction with our medical activities, MDM has decided to bear witness to the obstacles created by the Wall in accessing medical care. To accomplish this task, MDM collected 83 testimonies from people living in the West Bank and Jerusalem from July to October 2004. The testimonies focused on how the Wall has impacted individual lives. Once they had been compiled, they were enriched by our medical expertise in the field. MDM does not only take into consideration the “physical” Wall but also the whole set of already existing barriers such as checkpoints, earth mounds and roadblocks which are de facto associated with it.

This report “gives voice” to patients and medical staff who face daily difficulties due to the Wall. Their testimonies illustrate the following:

  • How the Palestinian health care system is placed at risk by the problems of access faced by both patients and medical staff.
  • How the Wall impedes people’s access to their livelihoods, resulting in economic difficulties to pay for health care.
  • The psychological consequences resulting from the division of families, increased tension and isolation.

    The Wall appears as the final and most visible part of a network of barriers, both physical and administrative, which restrict Palestinians right to life and freedom of movement in the occupied Palestinian territories. Since it does not follow the Green Line and encroaches into the West Bank, the tracing of the Wall is both disproportionate, in its health impact, and illegal. It violates both International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law.

    We therefore call on the Israeli authorities:

  • To guarantee the free access of the Palestinians and humanitarian and health workers to their medical facilities and to primary water sources
  • To ensure the respect and the protection of the rights of Palestinians, according to International Humanitarian Law.
  • To take all necessary measures to respect and implement the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of July 9th, 2004, which condemns the Wall.

    We call on the international community:

  • To ensure that Israel respects and implements this advisory opinion.
  • To ensure that Israel and the Palestinian Authority respect their obligations under International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law.

    We also call on the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority to prevent attacks on civilians and ensure their protection on both sides.

    Related Links

  • Download the full report [PDF format, 1.16 MB]
  • BY TOPIC: Israel’s Apartheid Wall
  • Medecins du Monde