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Death of Palestinian toddler outside hospital sparks Lebanon outrage Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Death of Palestinian toddler outside hospital sparks Lebanon outrage

Lebanon's health minister expressed his condolences to Wahbeh's family for the "regrettable incident" [Twitter]

Date of publication: 19 December, 2018

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The death of a three-year-old Palestinian in Lebanon caused by a lack of hospital beds has sparked angry protests in a refugee camp in the north of the country.

The death of a three-year-old Palestinian child outside a hospital in Lebanon has sparked angry protests, amid accusations he was denied admission to a number of hospitals because he was Palestinian.

Mohammed Wahbeh died on Monday after he was denied admission into intensive care units in several Lebanese hospitals, The New Arab's Arabic language service reported. However, authorities have said the reason was a shortage of hospital beds, not his nationality.

Wahbeh's mother is reportedly Lebanese but Lebanese women cannot pass on citizenship to their children with foreign spouses.

Palestinians in Lebanon complain of systematic discrimination that denies them access to most jobs and government services, including emergency healthcare often funded by the Ministry of Health, and have to rely on UNRWA for schooling and medical services. 

Residents of Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near the city of Tripoli, where the boy was from, have held daily protests since Wahbeh's death.

Protesters have burned tires outside the office of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA in the camp and blamed the agency and Lebanese authorities for failing to provide adequate care for the child.

On Wednesday, Nahr al-Bared shopkeepers closed their businesses to protest the alleged medical negligence that led to Wahbeh's premature death.

The incident has has been widely commented on by social media users, with many propagating rumours that hospitals had denied the boy admission because his family did not have enough money to pay for treatment or because he was Palestinian.

"The child entered the world carrying an identity he did not choose.. and he died as a victim of it," one Twitter user said.

UNRWA said in statement on Tuesday that it had spared no effort to fund Wahbeh's treatment and that the problem lay with the shortage of beds in children's hospitals.

Lebanon's health minister expressed his condolences to Wahbeh's family for the "regrettable incident" in statements published by the state-run NNA news agency, blaming the death on the child's chronic illness.

"I hope that no one exploits this tragedy... which happen especially to children. We must respect the sanctity of death and God's will," Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani was quoted as saying.

UNRWA was created in 1949 to support 750,000 Palestinians who fled or were driven from their homes during the war surrounding the creation of Israel.

The agency provides schools and health clinics to 5.3 million refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

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