Covid-19: a potential disaster in Gaza

© Olivier Papegnies

Covid-19: a potential disaster in Gaza

Following the announcement on Tuesday 25th August of the first community transmission cases of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip, Médecins du Monde – France calls on international actors to ensure the right to health is upheld in the Gaza strip. Residents of Gaza are currently facing a critical crisis, not only of a larger outbreak of COVID-19 but also an acute electricity shortage, increased hurdles to the already restrictive permit regime to access healthcare outside the strip, and almost daily airstrikes for the last two weeks.

AN ALREADY FRAGILE PALESTINIAN HEALTH SYSTEM

Hiba El-Sharif, Médecins du Monde France Field Coordinator in Gaza, stated

For those working on the right to health in Palestine, we are all too aware of the already fragile healthcare system, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now with 29,582 cases confirmed in West Bank and East Jerusalem with 169 deaths, and 365 cases in Gaza with 4 deaths, the first reports of wider spread community transmission in Gaza have highlighted the existing challenges placed on a healthcare system already on the brink of collapse.'

Currently the Ministry of Health in Gaza is facing seriously limited capacities for managing COVID-19 cases that will need oxygen therapy. This accompanied by a lack of testing kits and PPE equipment, will seriously hamper efforts to curb the spread of the virus in the Gaza Strip.

A CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC THAT EXTENDS AN ALREADY DRAMATIC SITUATION IN GAZA

The COVID-19 pandemic has already exasperated the deep economic and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which stems from 13 years of Israeli and Egyptian blockade, continuing internal Palestinian political division and the accompaniment of chronic electricity and water shortages and recurrent escalations of hostilities.

Médecins du Monde – France has provided supplies and equipment, including vital medicines, personal protective equipment (PPE) and carried out simulation exercises with hospital primary healthcare staff in preparation for a large scale COVID-19 outbreak. Médecins du Monde will continue to provide essential emergency medical support in Gaza, including support for sustaining regular primary care services in this critical time, such as mental health and maternal health care.Médecins du Monde a fourni du matériel, des médicaments vitaux et des équipements de protection individuelle en Palestine . © MdM

TO ALL ACTORS OF THE PALESTINIAN CONFLICT: HEALTH MUST NOT BE POLITICAL​

Philippe de Botton, Médecins du Monde – France’s President added:

All actors to the conflict should be reminded that health should not be politicized or used as a lever to achieve non-health related objectives. The emergency measures being enacted to deal with this public health crisis must be continuously monitored during and after the pandemic, to ensure that they are not being used as a cover to further disenfranchise the inalienable rights of Palestinians or to further entrench the occupation.

No one is safe, until everyone is safe from the pandemic. Israel, as the occupying power, must immediately lift restrictions on humanitarian and medical relief entering the Gaza Strip and facilitate the delivery of essential humanitarian action. The international community must ensure that Israel abides by International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, guaranteeing that all Palestinians have unrestricted access to healthcare, including all measures available to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

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