COVID-19 in Gaza
by Stephen Lendman (stephenlendman.org – Home – Stephen Lendman)
Besieged Gazans have been trapped in the world’s largest open-air prison by Israel for political, not security, reasons — their plight ongoing for over a dozen years with no let-up.
Humanitarian crisis conditions persist in more normal times. Most Gazans endure impoverishment, unemployment, or not enough to sustain life, health and welfare.
It’s why they’re dependent on humanitarian aid that’s been inadequate to get by since Trump cut off Palestinian funding, including for refugees.
Gaza’s health infrastructure is dysfunctional. It’s undermanned and lacks enough equipment, medicines, and related supplies.
The threat of spreading COVID-19 outbreaks among the densely populated Strip risks a potentially nightmarish scenario.
According to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), there’s an “acute shortage of essential drugs, medical disposables, ventilators, and COVID-19 testing kits” — virtually none of the latter.
Ventilators are in short supply, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
If viral outbreaks occur in large numbers and spread, Gaza’s health sector risks possible collapse.
On April 7, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a COVID-19 “Emergency Situation Report” for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, saying the following:
A state of emergency exists throughout the Territories.
There’s an acute shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).
As of April 7, 260 Palestinians were known to be infected with COVID-19 in the West Bank and Gaza, East Jerusalem Palestinians not included in the total.
At least one COVID-19 related death was reported. Around two dozen Palestinians recovered.
Low numbers of reported infections, including in Gaza, reflect limited testing, almost none in the Strip — so true numbers of Palestinians infected throughout the Territories is unknown.
They’re likely much higher than reported. The Palestinian Authority (PA) imposed a state of emergency.
According to OCHA, hundreds of Gazans were tested for COVID-19 almost entirely in the West Bank for lack of testing kits in the Strip.
“Less than 1,100 (Gazans) are currently quarantined in 25 designated sites, including the Rafah Crossing quarantine center, health facilities, schools and hotels” for suspected COVID-19, not known for sure.
Strip population is about two million. Since mid-March, Gazan crossing points for residents to the West Bank, Israel and Egypt have been largely shut.
Goods traffic continues but amounts of essentials entering the Strip are never enough.
According to B’Tselem, Gaza’s healthcare system “was already on the brink of collapse, even before receiving its first CODVID-19 patient.”
“Already, it cannot meet the population’s needs due to” an acute shortage of virtually everything required to treat the sick, injured and infirm.
Pre-COVID-19 outbreaks, Israel let small numbers of Gazans needing medical care receive it in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or Egypt — no longer.
According to international humanitarian law, Israel is responsible for the safety and welfare of Occupied Palestinians.
The International Court of Justice ruled that this standard applies if a state has “effective control” over territory in question with or without a military presence — clearly the case throughout Occupied Palestine, including Gaza.
Israel’s blockade created a humanitarian disaster in the Strip. Over 80% of the population needs humanitarian aid to survive.
Gaza’s infrastructure and economy collapsed.
B’Tselem: “The creator of this reality (Israel) is responsible for the health (and welfare) of the two million people living in Gaza.”
“Israel will not be able to deflect the blame if this nightmare scenario turns into a reality that it created and made no effort to prevent.”
COVID-19 outbreaks in the Strip will likely increase and spread.
Its medical infrastructure won’t be able to handle a possible onslaught of outbreaks if things get very bad.
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My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”