17,000 people demand UK action to ensure equitable vaccines access for Palestinians

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On 11 March, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) delivered a petition from 17,059 of our supporters to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, calling on the UK to urgently press Israel to uphold its duty to ensure rapid, equitable and comprehensive access to COVID-19 vaccines for the Palestinian people. The petition was accompanied by a letter co-signed by our Chief Executive, Dr Aimee Shalan, and Sir Terence English, MAP Honorary Patron and Former President at the Royal College of Surgeons.

The petition was delivered in the context of a worrying spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations in the West Bank, which has once again pushed the health system close to capacity, with Intensive Care Units in the Ramallah governorate at 115% occupancy. The West Bank has entered a strict lockdown as local authorities try to reduce infections.

The impact of perpetual military occupation mean that the local Palestinian health system does not have the necessary financial or material resources to sustain COVID-19 response long-term. Only a programme of mass vaccination can relieve pressure on the Palestinian health system and help prevent further avoidable loss of life, spiralling poverty and deeper health inequalities.

After delivering the petition Dr Aimee Shalan, said:

“We are grateful to everyone who supported MAP’s campaign. While coronavirus cases are surging, the vaccination programme available to Palestinians is piecemeal, glacially slow, and dependent on intermittent international donations. Israel’s duties extend far beyond humanitarian gestures: as the occupying power it is obligated to ensure that the entire population of occupied Palestine can access a vaccination programme that is rapid, equitable, and comprehensive.”

You can read the letter sent to the Foreign Secretary below. MAP would like to thank everyone who has taken part in this important campaign.

MAP will also be raising the issue of vaccine access for Palestinians at the UN Human Rights Council this month, which you can read about here.


MAP's petition handover letter to the Foreign Secretary

Dear Foreign Secretary,

As you will be aware, Israel is rolling out one of the fastest vaccination programmes in the world. More than 50% of its citizens, including those living in illegal West Bank settlements, have already received the first of their two coronavirus vaccinations. Meanwhile, Palestinians living under Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, are being left behind. As of 25 February, just 4,800 Palestinian health workers in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) – 0.01% of the population – had received their first dose of the vaccine.

The crippling effects of decades of military occupation and, in Gaza, the further impact of blockade, mean the Palestinian health system does not have the financial or material resources to sustain its COVID-19 response long-term, nor to purchase and administer sufficient vaccines for the population. Although the PA has applied to the global COVAX facility, generously supported by the UK, this will only cover up to 20% of its population and may take months to be fully delivered. Meanwhile, the West Bank is experiencing a third wave of coronavirus cases and daily life across the oPt is becoming even harder, with many families experiencing worsening poverty and food insecurity.

International humanitarian law clearly establishes that Israel, as an occupying power, is responsible for ensuring Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza can access vaccines where local supplies are insufficient, as the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Prof. Michael Lynk, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, recently highlighted. The Oslo Accords do not absolve Israel of these duties.

Though the Government of Israel has provided 2,000 vaccine doses for Palestinian health workers and reportedly started vaccinating the 130,000 Palestinians entering Israel or settlements for work, this represents only a tiny proportion of the population under its effective control as an occupying power. Israel continues to refuse to accept its legal duty to ensure rapid, comprehensive and equitable vaccination coverage for all Palestinians, leaving it dependent on occasional donations. The recent provision of 10,000 Sputnik V vaccines to the West Bank from Russia and 20,000 doses to Gaza from the UAE, while welcome, are insufficient to meet the population’s needs. Unless Israel’s duty is upheld, Palestinians will continue to face a disastrously slow and piecemeal vaccination programme, health inequalities between Palestinians and Israelis will deepen, and the humanitarian crisis in Palestine threatens to spiral out of control.

Furthermore, the Government of Israel’s previously stated intention to provide vaccine doses to its diplomatic allies ahead of the Palestinian population under its effective control threatens to set an ugly precedent of ‘vaccinationalism’ – against which the UN Secretary-General warned in January – making vaccines a tool of diplomatic and political power rather than a humanitarian necessity.
Overcoming a global pandemic requires every nation to do their bit and meet their legal and moral obligations. The UK and the international community must play their part by demanding fair treatment for Palestinians in accordance with international law.


Medical Aid for Palestinians and the 17,059 members of the British public who have signed the attached petition call on you to urgently press Israel to uphold its duty to ensure rapid, equitable and comprehensive access to COVID-19 vaccines for the Palestinian people.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr Aimee Shalan Chief Executive Officer, Medical Aid for Palestinians

Sir Terence English KBE, FRCS, FRCP Honorary Patron, Medical Aid for Palestinians Former President, Royal College of Surgeons 


MAP's petition calling for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for the Palestinian people

While Israel rolls out one of the world’s fastest vaccination programmes, almost five million Palestinians living under its 53-year military occupation are being left behind.

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc around the world and, without fair and comprehensive access to vaccines, is set to become a multi-year crisis.

Overcoming a global pandemic globally requires every nation to do their bit and meet their legal and moral obligations.

The crippling effects of decades of military occupation and, in Gaza, blockade mean the Palestinian health system does not have the financial or material resources needed to sustain its COVID-19 response long-term. Daily life has become even harder, with many families experiencing worsening poverty and food insecurity.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 68% of the population in Gaza was food insecure.

According to MAP’s partners in Gaza, rising rates of unemployment, poverty and food insecurity have triggered a surge in childhood malnutrition. A recent survey in Gaza took closer look at the impact of COVID-19, and found that 90% of surveyed households report not having enough food.

Meanwhile, many Israelis have already received coronavirus vaccinations, including those living in illegal West Bank settlements, but almost no Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

As a group of Israeli, Palestinian and international health and human rights organisations recently highlighted, international humanitarian law clearly establishes that Israel, as an occupying power, is responsible for ensuring Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza can access vaccines where local supplies are insufficient. Unless this duty is upheld, health inequalities between Palestinians and Israelis are set to deepen, and the humanitarian crisis in Palestine threatens to spiral out of control.

The UK and the international community must play their part by demanding fair treatment for Palestinians in accordance with international law.

We, the undersigned, call on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to urgently press Israel to uphold its duty to ensure rapid, equitable and comprehensive access to COVID-19 vaccines for the Palestinian people.

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