Gaza faces COVID-19 surge amid violence and worsening blockade

Fears are growing that Gaza is experiencing a third wave of COVID-19, as the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus continues to spread throughout the densely-populated area. This threatens to overwhelm Gaza’s already fragmented and under-resourced healthcare system and its exhausted workforce.

According to the Ministry of Health, 663 new cases of the virus were recorded in Gaza the last 24 hours, with three deaths. This is likely to get worse with less than 11% of people in Gaza having been vaccinated, and hospitals and clinics still suffering the effects of Israel’s devastating military offensive in May.

Gaza’s challenges in responding to the pandemic also continue to be exacerbated by violence against Palestinians and persistent medical and equipment shortages resulting from Israel’s illegal closure and blockade.

“We call on the international community to ensure an end to the suffering caused by this unjust blockade.” – Fikr Shalltoot, MAP's Gaza Director.

On Saturday, Palestinian anti-blockade protests at the perimeter fence were met with live ammunition and teargas from Israeli forces, injuring 41 people, including two critically. One of those critically injured was a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health. At least 27 of those injured were shot with live ammunition in their legs. An Israeli soldier was also injured and is in a critical condition. Palestinian factions in Gaza have pledged to continue the protests along the fence until the blockade is lifted.

Israel maintains sweeping restrictions on the entry of many essential items, including materials needed for the reconstruction of buildings damaged or destroyed in May. On Monday, Egypt closed the Rafah crossing, compounding the already-severe barriers to Gaza residents’ movement and blocking exit for those seeking medical treatment, study or other travel abroad.

“The situation may deteriorate further if the strict closure on Gaza, which has been significantly tightened since the escalation in May, continues,” said Fikr Shalltoot, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP)’s Gaza Director. “We call on the international community to ensure an end to the suffering caused by this unjust blockade.”

MAP’s team in Gaza is monitoring the situation closely. Throughout these overlapping emergencies, they have worked with partners to get urgent medical supplies to hospitals so that Palestinians can get the treatment they need.

MAP has been supporting the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 response, and since March 2020 has provided personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health workers, hospital oxygen generators, drugs, laboratory testing materials, disinfectants, and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices needed to improve clinical outcomes for patients with severe COVID-19 health issues. MAP’s long-term support for limb reconstruction services is also helping ensure access to essential surgical and rehabilitative support for those injured in military violence.

We are now looking to procure a range of lifesaving medical supplies, including more drugs and laboratory testing materials to support the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 response.

MAP urgently requires your support to respond to the healthcare needs of Palestinians in Gaza. Please support our work today.

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Photo: Palestinian protesters at the perimeter fence in Gaza during the Great March of Return in 2018.

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