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Israel: Ukrainian refugees struggle to get medical treatment due to lack of budget

Government says funds lacking for medical coverage as ministries seek to pass responsibility for health services
A Ukrainian Jewish refugee woman is helped off a plane by Israeli medical workers upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel (AFP)

Around 14,000 Ukrainian refugees now living in Israel have been left without health insurance and medical treatment, according to reports in Israeli media.

Last week, the government promised to extend health insurance and social assistance benefits for the refugees until at least the end of this year, following a two-week gap. 

However, the social affairs, health and interior ministries have all refused to extend medical and health services to Ukrainian refugees, asking that instead the treasury pay the entire costs.

The government issued a statement last week stating that they have not been able to renew the medical coverage for refugees due to a lack of funds. 

The lack of finances has already started to affect medical treatments that are underway, and many Ukrainians have not been able to get any access to medical services for over two weeks since the state pledged to restore their access to medical services. 

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"Elderly cancer patients have been cut off from chemotherapy, individuals with chronic disease have lost access to medication, and hospitals have cancelled critical surgeries," Dr Yanni Kranzler, the director of the Open Clinic for Migrants and Refugees at Physicians for Human Rights Israel told Middle East Eye.

"We continue to urgently call on the government to stop the abuse of refugees in Israel, and to provide them with health services immediatley, as required by international law, medical ethics and basic human decency," Dr Kranzler added.

Representatives from the prime minister's office and finance ministry said that they have not been able to allocate a budget despite Ukrainian refugees needing help.

"Despite efforts that have been made, as of the time of writing, a source of funds has not been found and the necessary budgets have not yet been completed in order to continue to provide health assistance to Ukrainian citizens, including providing an immediate solution to medical treatments that have already been scheduled or started," the representatives said. 

The full budget for the rest of the year is 40m shekels, or NIS, ($10.5m), which has drawn condemnation from some ministers, who say funding can be reallocated. 

"In a week the finance minister wants to allocate NIS 700 million to Judea and Samaria, he could have found NIS 40 million for the benefit of refugees," one source within the ministry was quoted by Haaretz as saying, using terms for areas of the occupied West Bank.

Ukrainians without a visa can enter Israel and visit up to three months as part of a bilateral agreement.

Due to the Russia-Ukraine war, Israel has extended visas of non-Jewish refugees. However, Ukrainian officials have denounced Israel for its treatment of Ukrainian visitors throughout the duration of the war. 

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