A calamitous combination of negligence by Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's government in failing to provide vaccines, mixed with rampant smuggling from Israel, has apparently launched an outbreak of brucellosis among Arab residents of Judea and Samaria.
Brucellosis, also known as Bang's disease, is a highly contagious condition passing from animals to humans, and can be contracted by consuming unpasteurized milk or undercooked meat from infected animals, or contact with their secretions. It can cause life-long chronic symptoms such as profuse sweating, as well as joint and muscle pain.
An investigation by the Palestinian Arab Ma'an News Agency exposed that there has been a rapid spurt in brucellosis among Arab residents of the region controlled by the PA, which directly correlates to a failure by the PA to provide vaccines.
Over 401 Palestinian Arabs came down with the disease in 2014, a sharp increase from 243 the year before, and just 184 in 2012 and 179 in 2011, according to PA Ministry of Health figures.
Ma'an showed how PA Ministry of Agriculture documents proved the increase came precisely as the PA cut vaccines to the disease, with only 20,400 out of 90,000 sheep in the Shechem (Nablus) district given the vaccine in 2011.
In 2012 no vaccines were given at all in the district; the PA restarted vaccines in 2013, injecting 25,600 sheep, but only 19,200 were given in 2014.
Similar trends were seen in Tulkarem and Kalkiliya, with the director of veterinary services in Kalkiliya, Samir Fuqaha, telling the news agency that PA vaccines since 2011 have barely covered half of the sheep in the district, and there too no vaccines were given in 2012.
PA smuggling from Israel causing the disease
But the lack of vaccinations is only part of the problem, with what is perhaps an even more sinister cause lurking in the background.
The PA Ministry of Agriculture's director of veterinary services, Imad Mukarkir, admitted to the news agency that a key factor in the rising rates of brucellosis has been the illegal smuggling of sheep from Israel by Arab criminals in the region.
The smuggled sheep apparently were stolen before they were inoculated, in an example of rampant PA crime directly fueling diseases in Judea and Samaria.
Murkarkir said his ministry will try to stop the illegal smuggling, if not to prevent theft from Israeli farmers then so as to protect Palestinian Arabs from disease.
The official added that the PA Ministry of Agriculture intends to supply a million vaccines on funding from its bidding committee, with 950,000 vaccines slated to arrive before the end of the month and 300,000 before May.
In March the ministry plans to launch a campaign to vaccinate 800,000 sheep in Judea and Samaria.