In a worrying development, Gaza confirmed its first COVID-19 (coronavirus) death on Saturday 23 May. The woman, identified as 77-year-old Fadila Muhammad Abu Raida, died at a quarantine hospital after returning from Egypt a few days before. Over the last week, the Ministry of Health have also reported 41 new cases of COVID-19 in quarantine centres in Gaza, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 61.
Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is greatly concerned that a widespread outbreak in Gaza could be catastrophic for the two million inhabitants. In one of the most densely populated places in the world, social distancing measures are near impossible to maintain. Israel’s illegal 13-year closure has left 80% of the population dependent on humanitarian aid, particularly food assistance, and accelerated the de-development of healthcare such that it lacks the essential equipment, drugs, supplies and human resources needed to treat a widespread outbreak of coronavirus.
Beyond Gaza, in the West Bank and the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, Palestinian communities also remain extremely vulnerable to the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Dr Andy Ferguson, MAP’s Director of Programmes, has warned: “We’ve all seen the number of cases and number of deaths from COVID-19 rise exponentially throughout the world. Every death is a tragedy. In the occupied Palestinian territory and refugee camps of Lebanon our greatest fear remains the rapid and uncontrollable spread of the infection through communities almost defenceless as a result of overcrowding, poverty, malnutrition, a high prevalence of chronic disease and health systems already at breaking point. We must do all we can to mitigate those risks.”
MAP is continuing to do our utmost to prevent the further spread of the disease and avoid the nightmare scenario of the Palestinian health systems becoming totally overwhelmed. Our emergency response is prioritising infection control and the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health workers. Meanwhile, we are helping hospitals prepare to care for more patients with severe COVID-19 disease through the supply of critical care drugs and consumables.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, MAP has provided to Gaza 430 hygiene kits, 4,552L of disinfectant alcohol gel, 2,000 PPE suits, 10,500 sterile gowns, 84,000 face masks, 65 eye protection glasses and 500,000 latex gloves.
In the West Bank we have delivered 204 PPE kits for health workers to the Ministry of Health. In Lebanon MAP has provided 287 PPE kits to five Palestine Red Crescent Society Hospitals and procured face masks, antiseptic lotions, and gloves so our community midwives can safely conduct individual health education sessions.
These infection control and hygiene measures have helped prevent widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 that would inevitably overwhelm Palestinians’ healthcare services. But with the crisis predicted to last for many months, such interventions will need to be sustained to avert disaster.
(Source / 29.05.2020)