Context and Needs
As both Israeli and the Palestinian governments struggle to contain the outbreak of the virus, communities continue to suffer the social and economic impact of this pandemic in many ways. For several weeks, the pandemic has halted daily life and forced tens of thousands of people to entering home Quarantine. The Palestinian Authority issued a decree for a state of emergency when the first cases were diagnosed on 5 March 2020 and launched robust national containment measures. All PA ministries and institutions except the ministry of health suspended the work. The Israeli Authorities has also introduced stringent measure as a counter measure against the spread of Coronavirus in the country. Furthermore, the pandemic has not only resulted in a public health crisis, but an economic predicament that exacerbates entrenched social inequalities. The need for isolation puts day to day life on hold, and with this comes job losses and significantly reduced income, inevitably having greater impact on poorer communities.
According to WHO report on 11 May, the total cases in all occupied Palestinian territory have reached 547 cases including 527 cases in West Bank and 20 cases in Gaza; furthermore, there were 329 cases recovered and a total of 4 deaths. In Israel there are more than 16,436 cases reported, there were also 11,229 cases that have recovered and a death toll of 245 cases.
In the West Bank and in Israel, the MoH have placed more thousands of people coming from abroad under the quarantine. At the time of writing, the surge in the number of cases and in the number of affected countries is continuing, including in the Middle East, increasing concerns on the capacity of national health systems to respond and provide the necessary care, in particular in countries with weaker health systems. The WHO risk assessment report stressed out that the OPT is considered to be a very high-risk area. One major challenge in OPT COVID-19 response is the readiness and capacity of the national health systems, especially in the Gaza strip.
In April unemployment rate in Israel has reached 24% with more than one million people registered as jobless; the vast majority of the unemployed have been put on unpaid leave by employers hit by the coronavirus crisis. While a good proportion are expected to go back to their previous jobs, many will continue to be unemployed.
In Palestine, more than fifty thousand families fell below the poverty line due to COVID-19 which is an additional challenge to the government’s efforts in the fight against the epidemic and ramifications on the community. Without any early warning families have lost their main source of income especially in the tourism sector as a result of the ban of tourists from visiting the city and holy sites. In the light of the fast spreading of the pandemic in Israel, The Palestinian Authority Prime Minister has even called on Palestinian workers in Israel to return to the West Bank even though Israel agreed to allow them to stay in the territory for one to two months.
WHO’s Head of Office for the oPt Dr Gerald Rockenschaub visited the Gaza Strip on a two day mission from March 22 to support health authorities in the COVID-19 response, with addressing the substantial capacity gaps in the health System. While containment remains the immediate priority, with a focus on early detection, isolation. The Gaza strip has been under Israel’s 12-year-long land, air and sea blockade which has crippled the economy, resulting in high levels of unemployment, food insecurity and aid dependency. Unemployment in Gaza reached 54% in the second quarter of 2018, with over 70 per cent of young people and 78 per cent of women unemployed. This unprecedented health challenge, the Palestine refugee community can be among the most affected due to living in overpopulated, economically poor areas.
This new and unprecedented crisis is generating stress throughout the population and there is a noticeable worry among people in OPT about the corona virus the fear of spread to a community.