The world is being advised to practise social distancing, wash their hands regularly and self-isolate, if they exhibit symptoms, as key ways to save lives. But for densely populated areas like Gaza - and for refugee communities the world over - this is simply unattainable.
Many people in Gaza are refugees and live in very close proximity to each other so keeping two metres apart will be almost impossible. Access to clean water is limited so frequent handwashing is difficult. Most concerning though is Gaza’s fragile healthcare system that will not cope with the carnage an outbreak would cause.
To help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the occupied Palestinian territory, Christian Aid and its Israeli and Palestinian partner organisations are asking Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Gaza to:
- Cease immediately the destruction of property anywhere in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory;
- Allow humanitarian organisations to provide essential humanitarian relief, including water and sanitation facilities throughout occupied Palestinian territory, and pledge not to seize or destroy those;
- Prioritise the health of Palestinians in occupied territory by genuinely cooperating to ensure needs are met;
- Immediately lift all restrictions on humanitarian and medical relief items entering the Gaza Strip, including any items previously barred from entry, and to allow all humanitarian personnel to enter and leave the Gaza Strip as a matter of urgency.
“This virus does not conform to political divisions or respect borders. It is demonstrating and exacerbating structural inequalities. It’s compounding exclusion and further marginalising those already at risk, driving those on the fringes and vulnerable further into despair.
“Coordination and a collective response is the only thing that will protect both Israelis and Palestinians alike, unfortunately this hasn’t happened so far.
“We would call for these measures even without the presence of COVID-19. However, now it is time for Israel, and indeed Egypt, to step up to the mark and work together with Palestinian and regional leadership to address the crisis. The Coronavirus is ravaging the entire world. In that sense, it is a leveller. But Palestinians - in Gaza in particular - are terrified at the prospect of it spreading and they need the support of the international community right now.”