Reports & Researches

UNRWA Medical Services According to Obligations and Elements of Right to Health

UNRWA Medical Services According to Obligations and Elements of Right to Health

(Clinic in Saida as an example)


The Palestinian refugees depend mainly on UNRWA for their hospitalization. About 80% of them benefit from UNRWA’s medical services, and 20% resort to guarantor institution to get these services, whereas some opulent refugees or those who are in need use private clinics. UNRWA medical clinics are considered to be the primary destination for Palestinian patients as it is the official body that is responsible for providing medical services for refugees in camps and gatherings.

UNRWA clinic in Saida:

Saida is the third largest city in Lebanon and the first one containing almost 35.8% [1] of the Palestinian refugees and Ain Al Helweh, one of the largest refugee camps in Lebanon, in addition to Miye ou Miye camp.

UNRWA clinics are found in all camps where they provide medical services for the refugees and follow up their health during all life stages including fertilization, pregnancy, infancy, adolescence, adulthood, and active aging. There is also a central clinic in Saida for those living outside camps.

Medical services Provided by the central clinic in Saida:

·       Preventative and curative health services

·       Family planning services

·       Before and prenatal care

·       Postpartum follow up

·       Babies care (medical examinations, vaccines, development monitoring)

·       Academic health

·       Oral and dental health

·       Outpatient consultations

·       Laboratory diagnostic services

·       Management of non-communicable chronic diseases.

·       Pharmacies providing available medicines

Challenges faced by patients in UNRWA central clinic in Saida

Ø  Crowding of patients resulting in a long waiting before seeing the doctor.

Ø  Not enough number of seats because of crowding of patients.

Ø  Closed elevator and inability of old people to reach the clinics, laboratories, and dental clinic.

Ø   Lack of privacy due to examining of patients at the building entrance because they can’t go upstairs without using elevator.

Ø  Lack of various specialized doctors which oblige patients to resort to private clinics whose expenses may exceed their financial ability.

Ø  Patients obliged to buy medications of high prices from other pharmacies due to absence of those needed for many illnesses.

Ø  Difficulty in obtaining referrals to hospitals, despite the presence of critical cases that require the necessary intervention.


Right to health in comparison with health department performance in UNRWA:


The right to medical services is one the most important human rights that must be implemented to ensure individuals health in societies. Like other human rights, the right to health imposes three types of obligations:

n  Respect: not interfering in the enjoyment of the right to health.

n  Protection: ensure that no third party might impede the enjoyment of the right to health.

n  Performance: taking positive action to realize the right to health.

Respect is a primary principle in UNRWA’s policy as it requires from its employees to respect beneficiaries of the agency’s services without harassing them, in addition to adhering to protection of individuals. However, these policies need monitoring of employees’ treatment towards beneficiaries and permitting latter’s suggestions and complaints. Likewise, staff and officials’ performance need attentive supervision and constant follow up in order to find positive steps to implement the right to health, especially in terms of rationalizing expenditures directed to the health department in UNRWA.

The right to health includes four elements, availability, easy access, admissibility, and quality.

The performance of the health department in the central UNRWA clinic in Saida indicates the following:

Availability: the clinic opens five days a week and receives all patients, however, neither doctors of all specialties are available nor medicines for all diseases.

Easy Access: it is easy to reach the clinic in Saida, but it is on the 1st floor and patients are forbidden to use the elevator which obstructs old people and those having chronic diseases from reaching and receiving the treatment easily.

Admissibility: the clinic staff generally respect patients and treat them in a good manner regardless of some quarrels due to the crowding of patients.

Quality: the quality of services seems to be relatively adequate at the clinic serving a considerable number of patients. However, patients are not completely satisfied of this quality especially due to shortage of medicines and services.



As the right to health is guaranteed by international norms and declarations, the Palestinian Association for Human Rights recommends the following:

1.     assign doctors of all specialties to meet all patients’ needs.

2.     Expand the clinic or open new ones to accommodate all patients and avoid crowding.

3.     Secure medicines for all diseases especially the expensive ones.

4.     Increase the percentage of expenditures coverage of medical surgeries and services of second and third level.