The Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced that the operational materials needed to run one of Gaza’s COVID-19 testing devices have run out. As a result, Gaza’s central laboratory is currently operating at half capacity, which drastically undermines the MOH’s efforts to contain and track COVID-19. Laboratory material and testing kits are urgently needed in order for the MOH to test potential COVID-19 cases and to take random swabs from within the general population. The MOH further warned that the laboratory might stop working completely within few days if the shortage in materials persisted.
Some two million Palestinians in the impoverished Gaza Strip are currently struggling to combat a potentially devastating outbreak of COVID-19 with minimal resources and a healthcare system that is on the brink of collapse after almost 14 years of Israel’s illegal closure restrictions and repeat military attacks.
Gaza lacks proper hygiene and sanitation, the natural sources of drinking water are largely contaminated, fuel and electricity supplies are insufficient, pollution is rampant, infrastructure is crumbling, and overcrowded living conditions in one of the most densely populated areas in the world make social distancing impossible to maintain. These poor health and hygiene conditions have been exacerbated by the lockdown imposed by the local authorities in August. Breadwinners and daily-wage laborers have been confined to their houses, which means that the financial stability of more than half of Gaza’s population is undermined, leading to a potential surge in food insecurity, which already stands at 70 percent.
Alarmed by the looming humanitarian catastrophe facing the population in Gaza, Al Mezan calls on the international community and concerned agencies, NGOs and international bodies to urgently mobilize support for residents of the Gaza Strip, and crucially, to ramp up supplies of medical equipment and testing kits necessary to fight the spread of the coronavirus.