Palestinians on Monday launched a global fundraising campaign aimed at finding the money to build their first specialist oncological hospital, organisers of the drive said.
At a news conference in Ramallah they said that the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority could not meet the cost, estimated at $250-300 million, and president Mahmud Abbas appointed a public committee to mobilise Palestinian donors around the world.
Health minister Jawad Awad said that in the absence of a Palestinian cancer treatment centre, patients have had to be sent to Israel, Jordan and Egypt for treatment, at a cost equal to 80 percent of the PA health budget.
About 4,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed each year among the Palestinian population of 4.5 million, Awad told the news conference, of which 6.1 percent are under 15 years of age.
A recent study showed 83 cases per 100,000 people in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip and 77 per 100,000 in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Of the 80 hospitals and clinics in the Palestinian territories none have the facilities to deal with cancer patients.
Tayeb Abderrahim, director general of Abbas's office and chairman of the fundraising committee, said that some Palestinian businessmen had already pledged donations.
Palestinian doctors working in Arab countries have also said they are willing to contribute their skills.
The World Health Organisation and other United Nations agencies regularly warn of deteriorating public health in the Palestinian territories, where services have been hit repeatedly by war and chronic power shortages.
The UN aid agency for Palestinian refugees says that in its last five-year survey it found that infant mortality in Gaza rose in 2013, to 22.4 babies dying before one year old per 1,000 live births, from 20.2 in 2008.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online.