Gaza vs. Coronavirus
By Mona El-Hajj
Gaza stands far from being able to handle any form of force majeure. Due to the ‘Israelis’ who have continuously confined and strained the most densely populated area on Earth, two million Gazans could tell you all about lockdowns, as well as the hells of food and medical scarcity.
Since 2007, people and goods have been restricted from entering and leaving the Strip, causing a dire shortage on electricity, potable water and infrastructure. Add to that an already crippled healthcare system with resource insufficiency. So far, 15 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Gaza, however, that number shows nil reliability: recently running out of testing kits, Gaza has been allowed only 5 more, which are viable for testing roughly 500 civilians in a sea of 2 million people.
“This has been the most difficult thing we’ve ever had to deal with,” says Iman, mother of three, a Palestinian residing in Gaza. “Treatment is unavailable, and if the virus were to spread, we’re not ready to withstand it. The situation is unbearable; it would crush us.” Iman speaks with angst to Al-Ahed, expressing her worries over how she’ll feed her children on the one hand, pay her medical bills on the other, while juggling the day-to-day anxiety of the coronavirus pandemic.
With only seventy hospital ICU beds and some sixty-two ventilators – most of which are in disrepair - it is only normal that infant mortality rates in the Gaza strip is ten times that of the Zionist entity. Amid the Corona virus pandemic which has fueled the international community into a stockpiling marathon-frenzy, ‘Israel’ continues to obstruct any medicine, COVID-19 testing kits and hospital supplies by international organizations such as the UN, regardless of the state of international emergency. Donated by the WHO, only 480 tests have been allowed into Gaza Strip. With civilians crossing from Egypt and ‘Israel’, both having considerable diagnosis rates, 15 cases of COVID-19 is only bound to increase.
The crippling unemployment rates add to the severe living conditions in Gaza. “The majority of people here are poor except for the landlords which make up a very small minority. The most affected by the current situation are people like taxi and bus drivers who live on day to day income,” says Iman, whose husband has been out of a job for several months now. Gaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, being %45 before the outbreak, which has naturally increased when the authorities issued quarantine. “So, most of us are committing to staying home, however there are workers that don’t have a choice. If they don’t work, they starve.” Although most Gazans are committing to quarantine, the densely-populated nature of Gaza strip makes social distancing unfeasible.
With such harsh living conditions, it is difficult to envision how an already-locked-down Gaza would be able to function. “Not everyone can buy masks and gloves. There’s a crazy increase in price, and they’re not available everywhere,” Iman says. It has been reported that a factory in Gaza which produces 10,000 masks a day, which has closed down in January, has reopened recently. However, with the owner being an ‘Israeli’, all masks go to ‘Israel’ as Palestinians are exploited for cheap labor.
“You could say we have none but God to rely on,” Iman chuckles, as you can hear the little desolation in her voice.