Over the past few weeks the Health Ministry has shut down "Tipat Halav" well-baby clinics in the Bedouin communities of Qasr al-Sir, Abu Talul and Wadi el-Na'an, all located within Abu Basma Regional Council limits in the Negev region.
Locals are accusing the ministry of discriminating against them, saying the measure may put thousands of Bedouin infants at risk because the nearest baby clinics are hours away.
"When I called to ask why the clinic was being shut down, I was told the reason was a shortage of employees," said Qasr al-Sir Committee Chairman Ibrahim al-Hawashla. "It is well-known that lack of medical care is a major cause of infant deaths, and the fact that babies are not being vaccinated endangers the entire community.
"Bedouin mothers deserve to raise their children with the same medical attention and security that is being provided in the Negev's Jewish communities," he said.
Abu Talul resident Atia al-Asam, who has six grandchildren, said, "The closure of the clinics is a disaster. Many of the locals have already said they won't be able to vaccinate their children. Not everyone can make the trip to the clinics located in the Jewish towns. Some are unemployed and there is no public transportation.
"Not providing this service (baby clinics) only hurts the weak. The Health Ministry is simply ignoring the Bedouin population. They don’t care about its health. No one would dare to close a clinic located in a Jewish community," he said.
Abu Basma Regional Council officials said they may petition the High Court of Justice in case the clinics are not reopened immediately.
The Health Ministry said in response, "Due to a shortage of nurses at "Tipat Halav" clinics in the southern district we were forced to refer the patients to larger clinics." The ministry said that over the past few years it had also shut down some clinics that served the Negev's Jewish population.