Rights Group Urges Israel to Provide Coronavirus Health Services to Unrecognized Bedouin villages

Rights Group Urges Israel to Provide Coronavirus Health Services to Unrecognized Bedouin villages

Many Palestinian Bedouins fled to the West Bank from the Negev after the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. Photo credit: BBC

The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel (Adalah) sent an urgent letter on 22 March to Israeli authorities demanding access to essential medical services for more than 70,000 Bedouin citizens of Israel residing in unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) region in southern Israel.

These citizens, now facing the growing threat of coronavirus, are not receiving urgent care from Israel’s national emergency medical service, according to a press release by Adalah.

Israeli Health Ministry guidelines prohibit patients with fever and respiratory symptoms from leaving the home, except in medical emergencies. After the symptoms associated with coronavirus develop, Israel’s Magen David Adom national emergency medical service (MDA), under the guidance of the district physician, is supposed to reach out to the patient for an at-home examination and – if necessary – evacuation to hospital.

However, residents of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Naqab lack access to MDA urgent care services, said Adalah.

In his urgent letter to Israeli Health Ministry Director General Moshe Bar Siman-Tov, Adalah Attorney Sari Arraf stressed that, in light of the failure to provide essential MDA services to Bedouin citizens of the state living in the unrecognized villages, the question arises as to how the ministry-mandated coronavirus procedure may be implemented.

Adalah demanded the Israeli Health Ministry immediately address this urgent public health issue stemming from deficiencies in providing equitable health services to the residents of unrecognized villages in the Naqab desert region.

"Israel has for years maintained a policy of neglect and discrimination when it came to providing routine health services – as well as emergency medical services – to Bedouin citizens of Israel in the unrecognized villages. In light of the coronavirus crisis, this state policy has now resulted in an immediate danger to local residents and the general public alike,” added Arraf.

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