Baby Clinic in Bedouin Village Closed Because of Lack of Electricity

Joint List MKs decry Health Ministry's failure to replace broken generator.

Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri
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Bedouin women from the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm Al-Hiran in the southern Negev, August 27, 2015.Credit: Reuters
Almog Ben Zikri
Almog Ben Zikri

A government-run well-baby clinic in an unrecognized Bedouin village, Abu Talul, has been closed for two months because of a delay in the Health Ministry acquiring a generator.

The clinic’s previous electricity generator broke down in August, and since then pregnant women have been forced to travel 22 kilometers to the well-baby clinic in Kasser A-Sir. There is no public transportation between the two villages.

Approximately 130 families are being treated at the clinic, whose patients generally include babies starting at birth. Well-baby clinics are responsible for vaccinations and monitoring babies for proper development.

Joint Arab List MKs Ayman Odeh, Talab Abu Arar and Abdullah Abu Maaruf in August submitted a parliamentary question to Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, now the health minister, demanding to know if the ministry intended to close the Abu Talul branch. Litzman denied any such intention and replied that he made an inquiry and found that it had been closed because of the broken generator.

Litzman also noted there was a specific allocation for a new generator. He added that given the branch’s proximity to an electricity pole, there was a chance of connecting it to a permanent electricity source and that the option was being explored with the Israel Electric Corporation.

Nothing has happened since then. The claim that the branch’s cases have been transferred to other branches has raised fears among village residents that the Health Ministry does plan to shut it down, despite ministry denials.

The Abu Talul branch was opened in 2001 in the wake of a petition by human rights organization Adalah against the Health Ministry, demanding that it builds clinics in unrecognized Negev villages.

The ministry decided to close three well-baby clinics, including Abu Talul, in 2009, but backed down following another petition. The ministry promised to reopen the station in the village, operating it three days a week.

Adalah’s Muna Haddad asserted that the continued closure of the center violates the rights of mothers and their children to accessible medical care.

“The situation will make it very hard for mothers along with their children to obtain preventative care,” she said. “The point of the station is to provide minimal conditions, and the lack of such services violates the mother’s human dignity.”

The Health Ministry commented that the local population also go to the Bedouin towns Hura and Kseifa, which are 45 and 30 kilometers, respectively, from Abu Talul. According to the ministry, it is impossible to fix the old generator, and it is in the process of acquiring a new one. The ministry added that the head of the local council agreed to connect the station to the local school’s power grid.

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