Bulletin #66: 2023's end sees health struggles in Palestine, South Korea, Brazil

This fortnight

In the closing days of 2023, the health spotlight continues to be on Palestine, particularly Gaza, where health workers find themselves under unrelenting pressure during the ongoing Israeli war on the Strip. For a continuous span of 84 days, midwives, nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, and other health workers in Palestine have tirelessly responded to the call, providing crucial care and comfort to thousands of people. Amidst these circumstances, the health workers face not only the scarcity of essential supplies but also alarming rates of arrest and disappearance of health staff, including the director of the Al-Awda Hospital in Jabalya, Ahmed Muhanna.

All are compelled to work in a situation where there are no medical supplies available, including the most essential medicines needed during times of war and peace. The Israeli attacks on health in Palestine began long before October 7, 2023, and assumed various forms. One of these forms is the limits imposed on the local production of medicines, a situation that has resulted in millions in profits for Israeli pharmaceutical companies.

As the year began, the spotlight was on a different kind of health workers' struggle. Nurses, junior doctors, and other health workers in the United Kingdom came together to protect the National Health Service and their workplaces. Despite a year-long battle for improved conditions, the fight is still on, marked by a recent strike by junior doctors who criticized the Ministry of Health for avoiding meaningful negotiations.

Industrial action by health workers is ongoing in South Korea as well. The Korean Health and Medical Workers' Union, following mobilizations in July, successfully secured funding for public hospitals in 2024 thanks to a renewed wave of action in December. As the new year is about to unfold, the union has announced it would broaden the actions' scope, aligning with the people in a collective pursuit of a stronger public health system.

Without actions like those of health workers in the UK and South Korea, which bring together the needs of medical staff and the working class, the health of all is at risk. In the Philippines, informal transportation workers face a worsening mental health crisis due to increased economic precarity during the COVID-19 lockdown.

In Brazil, positive transformations in health policies were achieved since the Lula government took office. Influenced by mobilizations within the health movement and the empathetic approach of the current Minister of Health, Nísia Trindade, the landscape began to shift. While challenges remain on the path to strengthening the Unified Health System and ensuring equitable working conditions for all, the outlook appears more navigable compared to the one put in place by the previous administration, as reported by Outra Saúde in an interview with Rosana Onocko-Campos from the Brazilian Association of Collective Health (Abrasco).

In focus: Health in Palestine

The pharmaceutical landscape in occupied Palestine

Israeli pharmaceutical companies have long been complicit in attacks on the health of the people in Palestine

Palestinian and international networks demand Israel release hospital director Dr. Ahmed Muhanna

Al Awda Association and the People’s Health Movement launched a campaign for the release of Dr. Ahmed Muhanna, director of Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza

Gaza’s health situation worsens amidst relentless Israeli assaults

Israel targets health infrastructure in central and southern Gaza, worsening the already grim state of healthcare delivery

World faces days of “moral decay” as Israel bulldozes hospital grounds, detains more doctors

Israel carries out unprecedented attacks against health workers and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, bulldozing hospital grounds and detaining doctors

Challenges lie ahead for health in Brazil

Progress in protecting public healthcare under the Lula government in 2023, yet challenges loom ahead

Health workers in South Korea announce new actions in 2024

The Korean Health and Medical Workers’ Union secures government support of public COVID-19 hospitals as plans to expand health workforce continue

Silent pandemic: Mental health issues among informal transport workers in the Philippines

Workers in the informal transportation sector in the Philippines faced an upsurge in mental health issues due to increased economic precarity during the COVID-19 lockdown

Junior doctors’ strike in the UK strike for pay restoration

A new wave of industrial action has been launched by junior doctors in the UK to fight for pay restoration

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