Gaza’s exceptional vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic is a direct product of decades of Israeli occupation, brutal siege and continued military assaults. Basic preventive measures – social distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home – are impossible to follow in Gaza, one of the world’s most densely populated regions, already plagued by systematic de-development: extreme poverty, destruction of infrastructure, damaged medical facilities, shortage of electricity and water and a debilitated health system.
Thirteen years of siege by land, air and sea, where Israel controls imports, limiting access to medical equipment, hygienic materials and medicine, compounded by the destruction of infrastructure, has shattered Gaza’s health sector. Equipment such as hospital beds is lacking, with only 2000 beds, with available ones amounting to only 200 beds. Another alarming example is ventilators; there are only 62 ventilators for a population that reaches 1.9 million, with a third already in use.
The spread of the virus in Gaza will worsen an already dire situation. As of 8 April, 13 people have been diagnosed. However, as testing kits in Gaza have completely run out, the real figure may be higher.