Besieged Gazans Face COVID-19 Outbreaks
by Stephen Lendman (stephenlendman.org - Home - Stephen Lendman)
Gaza has nine confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to its health ministry.
Under a virtual medieval siege by Israel since 2007 for political reasons, the Strip is hard-pressed to provide vital services for its people. including healthcare — its system failing because of blockade.
Last week, B'Tselem said spreading COVID-19 in Gaza with its two million people compromises the most densely populated place on earth and risks becoming "a massive disaster."
Gazans diagnosed with COVID-19 are quarantined. Likely other carriers haven't been discovered, including some asymptomatic ones able to spread the disease to people they come in contact with.
Nations well equipped to deal with illnesses and diseases are hard-pressed to deal with thousands of COVID-19 cases.
Before outbreaks occurred in the Strip, Gaza's healthcare system was "on the brink of collapse," B'Tselem explained.
It faces acute shortages of virtually everything needed to provide proper patient care, mainly because of years of blockade.
Nothing enters or leaves the Strip without Israeli permission, the health and welfare of its people of no concern to the Netanyahu regime and most other Israeli politicians.
Gaza is illegally occupied Israeli territory, its long-suffering people treated like enemies of the state.
It's the world's largest open-air prison. It's also a humanitarian disaster, possibly about to be exacerbated by spreading COVID-19 outbreaks.
The vast majority of its people are impoverished, unemployed or way under-employed, Strip infrastructure in a state of collapse, including its healthcare system.
Nearly all water is hazardous to human health. Gazans have only a few hours of electricity daily.
Lack of adequate sanitation and sewage disposal polluted offshore waters, increasing chances of illnesses and diseases.
Farmers haven't enough water to irrigate crops. Factories, other business and residential households can't function properly.
Israeli blockade, preemptive wars, cross-border incursions, and IDF terror-bombing at its discretion created a permanent state of heightened fear, especially among young children.
Israel is responsible for protecting health, well-being, and lives of Gazans.
Instead they're treated like enemies of the state, their fundamental rights ignored, and now there's COVID-19 to deal with.
Gaza's health ministry called on the international community to compel Israel to ease closure because of an acute shortage of ventilators, ICU capabilities, medicine, medical equipment, and supplies.
Governments worldwide are struggling to cope with growing COVID-19 outbreaks. Handling large numbers in Gaza is impossible under blockade.
If the virus spreads widely in the Strip, a humanitarian calamity is certain, along with severe human suffering.
On Saturday, Gaza's health ministry said 1,568 Palestinians are quarantined in 20 facilities, another 1,205 self-isolated at home.
WHO's Gaza office head Abdelnasser Soboh said the Strip's health system is "shaky and barely functioning."
If a large number of cases occur, it'll collapse. On March 24, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the following:
Gaza's "health system has been undermined by the longstanding Israeli blockade, the internal Palestinian divide, a chronic power deficit and shortages in specialized staff, drugs and equipment."
On Thursday, the right-wing Jerusalem Post said "Israel should lead efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Gaza."
The broadsheet quoted former Shin Bet (security) chief Ami Ayalon saying the following:
"We created the largest jail on earth in Gaza. We treat almost two million people as prisoners."
"Let's assume they are bad guys (which they're not) and that's why we keep them in jail. Even prisoners in jail have some rights, and we have a responsibility when it comes to these prisoners."
In January, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) head Raphi Walden described conditions in Gaza as "appalling…just terrible."
The main hospital in Gaza has empty shelves, they are missing critical medications."
At times, they don't "have the liquid needed to clean the skin before surgery. Everything is missing. It is a real humanitarian disaster there."
PHR-I's director of advocacy Dana Moss stressed that "(e)vereyone is aware that once coronavirus comes to Gaza, it will be a crisis because the health system in Gaza is anyway in a state of catastrophe."
"What will happen if (hundreds or thousands of Gazans) start to die?"
"Because Israel controls…movement in and out of Gaza, (the Netanyahu regime is obligated) to pass along medication and medical equipment."
Under international law, occupying powers must do whatever it takes to provide for the health and welfare of people they control.
Even under blockade, COVID-19 infected at least nine Gazans, what's likely to spread to many others.
Ayalon stressed the following:
"After almost 40 years working for the security of Israel, I saw the behavior of peoples and societies when they are really, really in despair, when they lose any hope and when they feel they have nothing to lose."
"If the people of Gaza feel they are going to die as a result of this crisis," they'll likely break through barriers separating the Strip from Israel en masse and vent their anger on IDF soldiers and civilians with pitchforks or any weapons at their disposal.
In light of spreading COVID-19, the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights called on the PA Mahmoud Abbas regime to aid blockaded Gazans in need.
A state of emergency existed in the Strip before COVID-19 outbreaks. Now it's more critical.
Instead of Netanyahu regime help, IDF warplanes terror-bombed Gaza overnight Friday, damaging homes and structures.
Israeli aggression came in response to a "homemade shell," allegedly from Gaza that landed harmlessly, causing no injuries or damage.
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