Israel’s devastating 13-year siege of the Gaza Strip is intensifying the coronavirus crisis in the Palestinian enclave, threatening the lives of its nearly two million inhabitants, a new study warns.
In a report released on Wednesday, a group of international researchers described “challenges over access to healthcare and other essential resources, as well as the economic toll the virus has placed on individuals and their families”, a statement said.
The study focused on the spread of public health information about Covid, the measures taken to curb its spread, as well as the socioeconomic impact of the pandemic.
More than 70 individuals from different locations in Gaza participated in the study, Mohammed al-Ruzzi, a research fellow from the University of Bath and member of the research team, told Al Jazeera.
While the report suggests that an awareness of the risks and understanding of the public health measures to reduce the number of infections are intact, it found there has often been “insufficient support to enable individuals to self-isolate”.
As a result, many view the public health measures “as more challenging than the disease itself”, the statement said.
Such challenges have been exacerbated by the ongoing air, land and naval blockade imposed by Israel, described in the report as “the dominant factor in the worsening humanitarian situation…[resulting in] the ill-preparedness of the local healthcare system, economy and communities to cope”.
“Israel’s blockade has devastated the economy in Gaza, and this is having a major impact on the ability of people to comply with lockdown measures when doing so means losing their already limited sources of income,” lead researcher Caitlin Procter from the European University Institute in Florence said.
“Many do not seek medical treatment for other health conditions, driven by fear of being infected by Covid, and the severe loss of income that a diagnosis would incur. For the same reason, some healthcare workers were reluctant to treat Covid patients, and many individuals with symptoms do not go for testing.”
In addition to the ongoing blockade, high unemployment rates, UN funding cuts, and Palestinian political divisions are factors contributing to Gaza’s moribund economy.
“All of these factors have been affecting the economic situation of the population. The outbreak of the pandemic and the rules of ‘staying at home’ leave many, including day labourers, unable to provide for their families,” al-Ruzzi said.—Al Jazeera
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