Prevention of Congenital Disabilities in Gaza: The Story of Controlling Thalassemia

Prevention of Congenital Disabilities in Gaza: The Story of Controlling Thalassemia

Disability is common in Palestine, especially among children, and most disabilities among children are congenital in origin. This case study discusses a successful initiative for controlling Thalassemia major which is a serious hereditary blood disease that represents a huge burden for patients themselves, their families, and the health system. The disease usually ends in serious disabilities and premature death in the second or third decade of life.  Still, the disease can be prevented through pre-marital testing of at least one of the couples.  In 2000, Palestine Future Association took the initiative to launch a policy of mandatory testing of all couples who are about to marry.


The policy implies that in case the two couples are carriers, marriage is legally prohibited which resulted in a progressive reduction of cases from almost 25 cases in 2000 to zero in 2021.  The initiative included heavy involvement and coordination with stakeholders, working with the influential regulators, extensive community awareness programmes and change in the legislation.  Given that the majority of disabilities in Gaza are congenital in origin, and highly attributed to consanguinity marriage, similar protective policies could be developed to address other preventable disabilities.

About the author

Bassam Abu Hamad is General Coordinator and Associate Professor in the School of Public Health Al-Quds University (Jerusalem) and currently Associate Regional Director for MENA for the GAGE research programme.

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