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  • Palestinian artists draw a mural in the form of a globe wearing a protective mask, during awareness campaign to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, in Gaza city, on April 2, 2020.

    Palestinian artists draw a mural in the form of a globe wearing a protective mask, during awareness campaign to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, in Gaza city, on April 2, 2020. | Photo: Xinhua

Published 2 April 2020
Opinion

The two-square-kilometers refugee camp is a home for 100,000 people and it is considered as one of the high densely populated areas in the world. 

Challenges and deep concerns are growing in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip to fight COVID-19 and prevent it from spreading in the densely populated coastal enclave that Hamas movement has been ruling since 2007.

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Experts warned that the narrow alleys and the overcrowded rickety homes that stick to each other in the eight densely populated refugee camps in the Gaza Strip may make it difficult to stop the rapid spread of the epidemic.

After a series of precautionary measures were taken in the Gaza Strip, the general movement of individuals and traffic has relatively slowed down in the Beach (Shatti) Refugee camp in western Gaza City, which suffers from a shabby infrastructure and a weak sewage system.

The 360-square-km Gaza Strip is a home for more than two million Palestinians, and according to international standards, the territory has been classified as one of the highly densely populated areas in the world. This fact makes it difficult to imagine the consequences if the virus spread in this area.

Matthias Schmale, Director of Operations in the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), told reporters on Thursday in Gaza that the spread of COVID-19 in the Gaza Strip will be dangerous because there is a lack of capabilities that were a result of 13 years of an Israeli blockade.

He expressed the deep concerns of his international agency of the possibility that the virus spreads in the Gaza Strip amid a fragile health system and a growing humanitarian needs for its populations.

"For so many years, so many people considered Gaza as an area that doesn't fit for living, its people have no jobs and can't get medicine. They rely on UNRWA in getting their food, so this is why Gaza is not viable," said Schmale.

Gaza's Health Ministry has earlier announced that the number of cases infected with COVID-19 is 12 and all are held in quarantine at Rafah border crossing point between southern Gaza Strip and Egypt. 160 cases have been so far recorded in the Palestinian Territories.

Hamas, rulers of the coastal enclave, took a series of large precautionary measures including the closure of schools, universities, wedding halls and public markets. It also closed down restaurants, cafes and mosques until further notice.

The weakness of the health system at hospitals and the lack of enough ventilators and medical supplies remain the major fear of the populations of the spread of the virus all over the Gaza Strip.

Ashraf al-Qedra, Spokesman of Gaza's Health Ministry, told Xinhua that the 12 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip were infected with the virus and they are held in quarantine in southern Gaza Strip, while the health situation in the entire enclave is shabby and weak.

"We used to transfer 2,000 patients to hospitals in Israel and Egypt," he added.

He explained that there is a lack of 50 percent of medications, equipment, and supplies due to the Israeli siege, adding that the government hospitals in the Gaza Strip only have 60 beds linked with ventilators and that there are 40 beds in the intensive care units in all the 30 hospitals.

Last week, Israel allowed the shipment of medical supplies and maintenance equipment to help to stop the spread of the virus in the Gaza Strip. The shipment included a computerized scanning device at the European Hospital in the southern Gaza Strip.

In the streets of Gaza city, most of the people are not wearing facemasks or gloves after the Health Ministry announced that all infected cases are under control and they were not allowed to contact people.

Ihab Dababesh, chairman of pharmacists association in Gaza, told Xinhua that the populations all over the Gaza Strip are buying more cleaning and sterilizing materials that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended.

"The most deeply worrying reality in the Gaza Strip is the overcrowding and the densely populated areas," he said.

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