Giving Children the Right to Healthcare Despite Geopolitical Barriers

Posted on Posted in Health

In West Jerusalem at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, Israeli and Palestinian doctors work together to save the lives of many children, regardless of their nationality (1). This care often presents  the last chance of survival for those children who suffer from life-threatening and complex birth defects. “Saving one life is as if saving the whole of Humanity” The Coran – Surah 5/–  The Talmud – Tractate Sanhedrin


Congenital Heart Diseases

Many of the children treated in the Paediatric Cardiology Department at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital are born with a congenital heart disease. Congenital heart diseases are among the most common, severe birth defects for newborns and are a major cause of premature death (2). There is a range of different types of defects that affect the structure and function of the heart of a newborn, including those that may not directly pose a threat to the child’s life and those that require immediate surgery (3). While some heart defects can be detected pre-birth, others may only be diagnosed after birth. Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent illness, disability and ultimately the death of a child. Yet in regions where access to healthcare is limited, such as war-torn Syria or the occupied Palestinian territory, diagnosis and treatment of a child with a congenital heart disease is likely to be delayed or even missed. For example, children who are born and live in the occupied Palestinian territory have difficulties to access healthcare. Firstly, there is a lack of physicians, particularly doctors who are specialized in cardiology, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and secondly, patients who live in these territories require a security permit to access care in Israel which is a time-consuming procedure and is not granted in all cases (4).


“Healing Hearts”

Despite the existing barriers and ongoing crisis, the continued collaboration between doctors at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital advocates for the fact that children are not to be blamed for the situation they are born into and that if they need treatment they should receive it. To be able to enhance the access to life-saving healthcare services for all children in the occupied Palestinian territory, Palestinian doctors are trained and all the doctors hope that a specialized center for heart surgery will be established in the occupied Palestinian territory in the not too distant future.

A special programme for operating on the Palestinian children and training Palestinian doctors was set up in collaboration with Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital by a French NGO “A Heart for Peace” 13 years ago.

To document the action by the doctors who go beyond differences, hatred and conflict for children´s survival, a documentary is going to be made by the film director Katya Chelli. This documentary will shed light on the families and caregivers who accompany their children and the health staff who care for them. The film will deliver a message of solidarity and hope for those living in conflict and under occupation.

For more information about the initiative, please view this video . You can also contribute to the film project, by following the link below.  (Copyright © 2018 Lucien Television, All rights reserved.)


Healing Hearts Video


1. Benhaiem, A. Working Beside Israelis, This Palestinian Doctor Aims to Treat Everyone. [Online] 2015.

2. World Health Organization (WHO). Congenital anomalies. [Online] 2016.

3. The Children’s Heart Foundation. Fact Sheets – What are congenital heart defects? [Online] 2012.

4. Director-General at the Seventieth World Health Assembly. Health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. 2018.