Oxfam Ireland boosts response to COVID-19 in Gaza Strip with funding from Irish Aid

Oxfam Ireland boosts response to COVID-19 in Gaza Strip with funding from Irish Aid

Oxfam Ireland is working to make sure families in Gaza remain protected

On March 5th, the Palestinian Authority declared a state of emergency in response to the first cases of novel coronavirus (Covid-19). With two million people living in the Gaza Strip - one of the most densely populated areas of the world - the risk of transmission is unavoidably high, while the result would be unimaginably devastating.

On March 21st, the first two cases of Covid-19 were detected in the Gaza Strip – and as of April 6th, there were 246 confirmed cases in the Occupied Palestinian Territory with further testing in progress.

Good public health as a strategy to counter the spread of infectious disease has been long-undermined in Gaza by a now 13 year-long Israeli blockade that has restricted importation of materials essential to the repair and maintenance of water and sanitation infrastructure. Restrictions on the movement of medical workers means they have not been able to take part in training opportunities or exchange medical knowledge and skills.

With support from the Government of Ireland, Oxfam has mobilised teams to urgently respond to the threat of COVID-19 and the process of procuring and delivering essential supplies that will protect the lives of the near two million Gazans trapped in the Strip is well underway.

Colm Byrne, Humanitarian Manager with Oxfam Ireland, said: “Our immediate priority is to reduce the risk of Covid-19 rapidly spreading among vulnerable communities in the Gaza Strip. To do this, it is critical to ensure quarantine centres have sufficient water and sanitation systems and are stocked with essential medical supplies. It’s also critical to carry out life-saving hygiene promotion in the communities we work with."

“In response, we are working with Irish Aid to utilise the Emergency Response Fund Scheme (ERFS) so that we can urgently reach those most in need in Gaza, to save lives and reduce suffering. The emergency grant will support schools, which are now being used as quarantine centres, as well as protective equipment for critical frontline staff in health care facilities. Hygiene kits will also be distributed."

“This crisis has highlighted our interconnectedness – how easily all of our lives can be disrupted or threatened, and how we cannot say we are safe if that is not true for all of us, especially those most at-risk among us. If we cannot offer a helping hand and solidarity with the most vulnerable during this global crisis, we go against our undeniable interconnectedness as people. In the past, communities and countries across the world extended that hand to Ireland – I am very grateful that we are now in a position to do the same for the people of Gaza.”

Mohammed Ammar, Oxfam’s Saving Lives Programme Manager in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel said: “People in confinement around the world are experiencing what it means to be Palestinian, to live under lockdown and movement restriction. There is a lot of empathy and we can only hope some good will come out of this once the storm has passed.”

“We are bracing ourselves for the worst. Hospitals and clinics face incredible challenges such as electricity, water, and equipment shortages due to very fragile conditions. There is an inadequate amount of Intensive Care Unit beds and ventilators for the population of two million in Gaza. More funds are urgently needed to respond to the worst-case scenario of a major outbreak that would bring Gaza’s health system to its knees."

For many years, Oxfam has continued to work on maintaining and repairing the water distribution network in Gaza. Oxfam teams in Gaza are also finalising the maintenance of more than a dozen public water taps in vulnerable areas. They are gravely concerned about the deep impact Covid-19 will have on the women, men, and children already living under immense pressure from the economic repercussions of the blockade, the lack of clean water, and a very fragile health system.

Shane Stevenson, Oxfam‘s Country Director in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, said: “On behalf of the team here, we are deeply grateful for the allocation of the funds to Oxfam’s COVID-19 response in Gaza. We are continuing to explore other funding mechanisms to further support our COVID-19 Response Plan not just in Gaza but also in the West Bank."

“Thanks to Oxfam Ireland, and especially to the people of Ireland who are supporting this response through Ireland’s overseas development programme, Irish Aid.""

 

ENDS

CONTACT

Oxfam Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel in-country Spokespeople available for interview

Caroline Reid | caroline.reid@oxfam.org | +353 (0) 87 912 3165

Alice Dawson-Lyons | alice.dawsonlyons@oxfam.org| +353 (0) 83 198 1869

 

Notes to editor

  • How people in gaza are affected:
    • Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza have no safety net to fall back on. Small shops have shut and business-owners have no income to pay their employees or provide for their own families. In Gaza, the unemployment rate sits at a 47%. With movement restriction to prevent a further spread of Covid-19 in the blockaded enclave, those supporting their families won’t be able to put enough food on the table.
    • Food prices in the Gaza strip rose when the outbreak started and could further increase. Families with no stable income will be the most affected as they won't have enough money to buy what they need. In Gaza, the poorest communities, women-headed families, the elderly and disabled will bear the biggest brunt of this crisis.
    • Many families in Gaza depend on free water distribution. Because of the Covid-19 outbreak, these families are the most at risk of contracting the disease while gathering at public water taps to get water for their homes. These families have no proper alternative for safe drinking water in case they cannot access these taps. Ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation is a main concern in relation to increased restrictions.
    • Women shoulder the vast burden of unpaid care, which is bound to increase dramatically as caring for sick relatives and looking after children at home becomes more urgent. Being quarantined for weeks at a time can also raise the risk of domestic violence while women are unable to escape to a place of safety, as social and economic tensions increase the likelihood of violence in the home.
  • What is Oxfam doing in Gaza:
    • Oxfam is providing protection equipment for health workers as well as, beds for patients in quarantine centres, soap and other essential personal hygiene products.
    • Oxfam are helping the poorest and most vulnerable families put food on the table and buy hygiene items and access clean water to protect them from the outbreak. They are currently maintaining 14 water filling points in vulnerable communities in Gaza. Oxfam’s WASH team is coordinating to finalise maintenance before further lockdown measures.
    • Oxfam are working with other agencies such as WHO and UNICEF to raise awareness about best hygiene and health practices in order to avoid further spread of cases across the West Bank and Gaza.
  • Irish Aid’s Emergency Response Fund Scheme (ERFS) supports humanitarian response during the initial weeks after the onset of an emergency. Through ERFS, Ireland pre-positions funds with participating Non-Governmental Organisations at the beginning of the year to enable them to respond quickly and appropriately to humanitarian crises. Irish Aid is the Irish Government’s overseas development programme, which is funded by the Irish taxpayer. The programme is managed by the Development Co-operation and Africa Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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