'Medical care dire in unrecognized Beduin villages'

Beduin women deeply dissatisfied with services, wide gap remains compared to established villages.

beduin 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
beduin 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
There is a widespread lack of access to medical specialists and deficiencies in medical infrastructure in the Negev's unrecognized Beduin villages, according to "Israel's Step Children," a position paper commissioned by Women Promote Health and Physicians for Human Rights. A survey of Beduin women, completed in conjunction with the study, has found "deep dissatisfaction concerning available medical services." The position paper and survey were completed in response to the first-ever report on Beduin children in unrecognized villages in the Negev. That 62-page report, published earlier this month, was issued by the Southern District Health Office, the Center for Disease Control and the Ben-Gurion University Health Sciences Faculty. The report found that while the health of Beduin children in unrecognized villages in the Negev had improved significantly, there was still a gap compared to those who live in recognized villages. There are discrepancies based on low birth weight, vaccinations, the giving of vitamins, and mineral deficiencies. Heijer Abu Sharb, author of "Israel's Step Children," said of his findings, "Our report proves that there is inherent discrimination towards residents of the villages, even in the availability of health services." "We cannot forget that the residents of these villages are Israeli citizens, insured by Clalit Health Service and are entitled, by law, to receive the proper medical services, no different than the rest of the population," he said. There are 11 clinics servicing the 45 unrecognized Beduin villages in the Negev, Sharb found. According to him, out of the 11 clinics, none are connected to the electricity grid. They are connected to generators, which operate for limited hours during the summer. In the 45 unrecognized villages, 60% of residents are children and out of the 11 clinics, none have on-staff pediatricians or gynecologists. According to Sharb, Beduin women seeking medical treatment for their children are forced to travel long distances. The survey of Beduin women found that 50% have had to take their children to clinics on foot, which are on average two hours away, and sometimes "physically inaccessible." Once they reach the clinics, 56% of women surveyed said they struggled with Hebrew and were forced to rely on family members or strangers to translate. Because of the deficiency in medical care, Sharb found that 80% of children in Beersheba's Soroka Medical Center are Beduin. In addition to a lack of medical capabilities, Sharb found that Beduin clinics were also open less. Jewish communities had 406 weekly doctor reception hours, compared to 127 for Beduin communities. While Jewish clinics have additional hours to see specialists, Beduin clinics were lacking specialist hours, or for that matter, any specialists at all, the paper found. As a result of the lack of medical care in Beduin clinics, 45% of women surveyed said they did not visit the clinics at all and 48% reported using extra-clinical from private doctors and emergency rooms to address their medical needs. With the publication of "Israel's Step Children," both Women Promote Health and Physicians for Human Rights are calling on the State of Israel to "remedy these discrepancies." Both organizations seek to "implement a plan to reduce disease and mortality among the residents of unrecognized villages in the Negev, especially children, and ensure culturally and linguistically appropriate medical services for the Beduin community."