Gaza's Health Sector under Hamas

Incurable Ills?

In less than three decades Hamas health care activities have transformed dramatically. This transformation in health care has mirrored Hamas’s own evolution, albeit incomplete, from a militant organization to a de facto government. In the process the Islamic movement has gone from coordinating dozens of medical clinics and charities in the West Bank and Gaza to managing a multimillion dollar health ministry with thousands of employees and hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries. Once seen as a religious duty and a practical recruiting tool, Hamas’s health care agenda is now one of practical governance and political survival.

This paper traces the evolution of Hamas’s health care services from the movement’s origins to its current role as the de facto government of Gaza. The paper focuses primarily on the impact of Palestinian divisions on the development of Gaza’s health sector since Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in June 2007, and it examines how regional trends in 2011 have influenced internal Palestinian dynamics that will likely shape Gaza’s health care sector and the Palestinian population more broadly in the future. Finally, the paper examines the U.S. policy implications of Hamas’s successful management of health services in Gaza.