On Tuesday, 14 April 2020, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) and Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) organized a workshop online via Zoom, titled: “Gaza Strip and Coronavirus: Reality and Health Challenges”. The workshop was attended by representatives of the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, private health sector, the World Health Organization (WHO), human rights organizations, and civil society organizations. This workshop is within PCHR’s European Union funded project “Promote, Respect, and Fulfill the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health in the Gaza Strip”.
PCHR researcher, ‘Azzam Sha’at, opened the workshop and pointed out that it is intended to assess the health situation in the Gaza Strip and the ability of the health sector to face the coronavirus pandemic in its current state and the challenges it faces due to the Israeli-imposed closure and Palestinian internal division.
In his intervention, Dr. ‘Abdul Latif al-Hajj, General-Director of International Cooperation in the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH) in Gaza, laid out all measures and efforts taken by MOH – Gaza to combat the spread of coronavirus, and stressed that MOH adopted preventive measures to contain the spread of the virus among the Gaza population, fearing the collapse of the health system in the Gaza Strip and its inability to sustain patients bearing in mind the acute shortage of essential drugs and medical devices.
Al-Hajj added that after COVID-19 Testing Kits had run out for several days, Gaza Strip hospitals received yesterday 480 COVID-19 Testing Kits only.
Dr. ‘Aed Yaghi, Director of PMRS in the Gaza Strip, pointed out in his intervention on “the role of private health sector in supporting efforts to combat coronavirus,” that the healthcare system in Gaza is fragile and is incapable of dealing with large numbers of patients. Therefore, focusing on prevention and quarantine is the best route to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Yaghi stressed that civil society organizations have raised their response level in the state of emergency to combat the outbreak of Coronavirus by providing medical and advisory services, medicines, psychological support and organizing awareness-raising sessions in quarantine centers. Yaghi said he is not satisfied with the level of coordination, cooperation and partnership in providing health services at the present time, calling for improving the coordination and involving all relevant parties.
Mohammed Lafi, Coordinator of the World Health Organization (WHO) Advocacy Unit, stressed in his speech on WHO’s role in supporting the health sector in Gaza to combat coronavirus. He emphasized that WHO provides technical support and monitors the healthcare system in the Gaza Strip. Lafi clarified that WHO has intervened since the start of the emergency state and facilitated the entry and funding part of COVID-19 Testing Kits, essential drugs and other medical supplies. Also, WHO provided financial support to equip the Gaza European Hospital to sustain Coronavirus patients, if necessary.
Mrs. Ghada Majadlah, Head of Occupied Palestinian Territory Department at Physicians for Human Rights, gave a speech on the “Role of Physicians for Human Rights in helping the Gaza Strip patients in light of the restrictions on their travel.” Majadlah pointed out that PHR continuously follow the healthcare conditions in the oPt by communicating with the Palestinian Ministry of Health to learn its urgent needs under COVID-19; to pressure the Israeli authorities, and submit legal petitions to ensure that the Gaza Strip is provided with urgent medical needs, including ventilators; and to facilitate the transportation of patients for treatment abroad under all circumstances. Majadlah also called on the Israeli authorities, as an occupying power, to assume their legal responsibilities for the health conditions in the Gaza Strip by facilitating the transportation of medicines and medical consumables needed by cancer patients in the Gaza Strip in these circumstances.
Mr. Mohammed al-‘Azaizah from Legal Center for Freedom of Movement “Gisha”, talked about “Israeli restrictions on importing devices and equipment to the Gaza Strip in light of fears of the spread of the coronavirus.” Al-‘Azaizah pointed out the tight Israeli restrictions imposed on the Gaza Strip; Israeli authorities’ ban on importing medical devices, equipment and spare parts to the Gaza Strip claiming that they are dual-use items. Al-‘Azaizah also mentioned the restrictions imposed on movement of medical personnel to and from the Gaza Strip, noting Gisha’s role in coordination with the Palestinian MOH to interfere with the Israeli authorities to transfer broken medical devices abroad for maintenance, despite the complex Israeli measures that restrict the work of human rights organizations.
It should be noted that the workshop was broadcast and transmitted live on PCHR’s Facebook page and thousands of followers watched it. To see the full proceedings of the workshop, click the following link: