“UNRWA food aid will be temporarily suspended until finding a safer way to deliver aid,” was the announcement from the UNRWA, the UN agency providing assistance to Palestinian refugees, which explained this was “a precautionary measure to maintain the safety of [UNRWA] personnel and beneficiaries” and to prevent coronavirus infection.
This did not reassure hundreds of thousands of refugees and the rest of the population of Gaza, where the announcement—which came at the beginning of the week when the first two cases of coronavirus were detected in the region—has given rise to anguish and fear.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health issued an urgent appeal to the WHO to provide medical equipment due to the possibility of an extensive spread of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip, which has been under Israeli blockade for 13 years and where the health system is in a frail condition and unable to respond to such a serious emergency. “We are asking the UN and the international community to give us immediate support, including ventilators and intensive care equipment to deal with the epidemic,” said Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.
Al-Qudra explained that at least 150 respirators were needed in Gaza, where only 45 are available at the moment. At this point, the annual €82 million aid package to the UNRWA from the European Union is on its way, in addition to the $150 million in aid that are coming from Qatar.
On Wednesday, the first death of a Palestinian in the Occupied Territories from the coronavirus was recorded. She was a 60-year-old woman from the village of Biddu, in the West Bank, where two other infections occurred.
There are currently 97 positive cases in Palestine, mostly in Bethlehem, while the number of confirmed cases in Gaza is up to nine.