The Palestinian Network of NGOs (PNGO) issued a report reviewing the nature of the interventions made by NGOs in the Gaza Strip to limit the spread of Coronavirus. NGO’s have abode to the ongoing emergency state where they are exerting great efforts to help the society stand in the face of the pandemic; this came after finding several cases inside the Gaza Strip.
Procedures related to the compulsory quarantine of all travelers coming into the Gaza Strip, whether through the Rafah crossing Or the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing helped in containing the crisis and keeping it under control. It is noteworthy that all activities carried out by NGO’s are in coordination with official bodies and ministries to respond to the current situation. However, the limited funding was one of the most prominent obstacles that stood in the way of these organizations, especially in light of the difficult conditions that the Gaza Strip suffers from and the poor capabilities that the Israeli blockade helped in creating and exacerbating for about thirteen years.
Report on NGOs interventions in the Gaza Strip to contain the spread of Coronavirus
National organisations in the Gaza Strip face a new crisis that adds to their continuing challenges concerning the new outbreak of the Coronavirus “COVID-19” in the world. Palestinian civil society organizations are trying to fulfil the financial and economic consequences emerging from the spreading of the Coronavirus in Palestine and the Gaza Strip in particular. Therefore, some NGOs have rescheduled their main activities, suspended projects, and channelled efforts to develop alternative plans to contribute to mitigating the effects of the pandemic.
In view of the global crisis, NGOs in the Gaza Strip are working to limit the spread of the virus, ensure community safety, and counter the negative effects of precautionary measures. Within the framework of monitoring and documenting the reality, efforts, and needs of NGOs to limit the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Palestinian Network of NGOs (PNGO) has conducted a survey targeting civil society organizations and their sectors while continuing its monitoring through the collection of data and information issued by various NGOs in the Gaza Strip. Thus, the results reflect the size of changes and actions taken by NGOs at several levels.
First: The Precautionary Measures Taken by The Civil Organizations:
In line with the declaration of the state of emergency announced by the Palestinian government at the beginning of March, NGOs began to implement safety measures related to working conditions:
- Reducing work hours, cancelling office meetings, shifting to remote work technologies, such as Zoom, Skype, and activating the hotline for consulting services, was the main plan in 90% of the surveyed organizations.
- Rescheduling, planned activities of funded projects and events to limit the spread of the Coronavirus.
- Providing water and fresh vegetables to citizens in quarantine sites in the Gaza Strip.
- Providing sterilizers for citizens, disinfecting work areas, public places, markets, and health centers.
- Issuing fact sheets, studies, awareness brochures, and videos from various sectors on precautionary measures to help fight the ongoing crisis.
Second: Activities carried out by the organizations since the declaration of the state of emergency to counter the consequences of the Coronavirus:
Civil society organizations are exerting tremendous efforts to help the community facing the spreading pandemic, especially after several cases been reported in the Gaza Strip. Procedures related to the compulsory quarantine of all travelers coming into the Gaza Strip, whether through the Rafah crossing Or the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing helped in containing the crisis and keeping it under control. The measures taken by civil society came following the current and emerging conditions in the Gaza Strip.
It is worth noting that all activities carried out by civil society organizations are in coordination with official bodies and ministries to respond to the current situation. However, the limited funding was one of the most prominent obstacles that stood in the way of these organizations, especially in light of the difficult conditions that the Gaza Strip suffers from and the poor capabilities that the Israeli blockade has exacerbating for about thirteen years.
The Health Sector:
- Adhering to the emergency plan in coordination with the Ministry of Health, following up procedures for receiving patients, and following up disabled people’s cases in their houses.
- Continuing to provide health services to citizens and dealing with the increasing number of cases, especially for elderly and chronic disease patients considering the limited medical services provided in emergencies.
- Issuing brochures on the protective procedures to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
- Training staff to provide protection and safety measures for patients and employees.
- Activating psychological support programs through various channels, training specialists in providing consultations over the phone, and providing consultations over the phone.
Women’s Sector: Organizations affiliated with the women’s sector carried out the following activities:
- Issuing a guide on “Emergency Services to Respond to GBV” during the Corona Crisis.
- Providing e-psychological counselling services for women who visit organizations’ legal units, especially for women suffering from violence in marginalized areas.
- Training women to make cleaning materials and sterilizers at home, especially for families with low income to alleviate the financial burden resulted from safety and protection measures.
- Publishing a paper on the standards that should be gender-complied in humanitarian work in times of emergency.
- Some organizations have designed an e-questionnaire to survey the impact of the Coronavirus on gender-based violence cases to keep pace with violence cases considering the current crisis to follow up and evaluate current and future interventions.
Agriculture Sector: Organizations affiliated with the agriculture sector carried out the following activities:
- Issuing “the art of environmental gardening and farming”, which is a comprehensive guide to home gardening filled with photos and illustrations.
- Producing informative films for farmers to protect and make them aware of safety measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
- Launching community-based initiatives such as the “Produce Your Food and Protect Your Family” initiative by issuing a guide for citizens wishing to grow plants at home to obtain fresh food products. The initiative highlights the importance of using empty spaces around houses and on their roofs in urban and semi-urban areas.
- Issuing papers on the reality of the food security crisis in the Coronavirus phase and the limited funding to the PNGO agricultural sector.
- Distributing agricultural items, such as vegetable pots and roots, seeds, and fertilizers, to small farmers.
- Participating in the emergency committee meetings with the Ministry of Agriculture. The meetings were held with the food security cluster and international institutions to identify priorities for food security.
- Issuing a fact sheet on “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on families in the Gaza Strip”.
- Publishing a booklet on the precautionary measures on the pandemic of Coronavirus in sign language.
- Providing medicines, services, and equipment for the elderly.
- Distributing photocopies of general guidelines on how to sterilize tools, considering all types of disabilities during the process.
- Resuming academic support activities for children and teenagers virtually after the closure of schools and educational centers.
- Implementing initiatives such as the “Bicycle and a Life” initiative in the view of the circumstance that the world and Palestine are living due to the Coronavirus outbreak. The current situation left libraries no choice but to distribute borrowing requests via bicycles and then collect them after a week to sterilize them before distributing them again to different people.
- Working with activists in the field of developing educational activities to use stories and art to develop children’s reading and writing skills. These activities target families within projects to develop their capabilities in providing home support to their children in different skills.
- Inviting children to share pictures or videos of them from their houses about their daily routines, their situations, and any activities happening between them and their family members.
- Creating more opportunities for expression, participation, dialogue, listening, playing, and expression of feelings and documenting these interactions, where children share the institution’s videos, drawings, and messages about the activities they do in the event of a lockdown.
Third: Challenges facing NGOs in light of Coronavirus pandemic outbreak continues:
First: The lack of funding and lack of emergency budgets for NGOs to cope with the rising needs from the pandemic, especially the increasing numbers of those who have lost their income sources.
Second: The scarcity of resources, especially under the suffocating economic crisis, due to the halting of work in many families that depend on daily income and workers in some special sectors.
Third: The pausing of the educational process in schools left the educational organizations to call for presenting and sharing Math, Arabic, Science, and English worksheets for students in grades one to four weekly. Also, educational organizations started preparing educational files for children who are behind the school schedule and delivered them to their homes to follow up with parents.
Fourth: The Reaching of vulnerable families to provide them with rehabilitation services, specifically for children with cerebral palsy as well as providing formulas for infants and nutritional supplements. Care must also be given to the elderly who need rehabilitation after suffering from strokes and patients with clinical ulcers in safe centers.
Fifth: The inability to reach the most densely populated and marginalized areas (camps – border areas – Bedouin communities) where a great focus must be placed on community awareness to prevent the spread of infection. 95% of organizations report that they can reach these places if funding was available since modern social media cannot access these areas and groups.
Sixth: The lack of training of workers in civil organizations on prevention and safety procedures by competent authorities, where the surveyed organizations reported that about 41% of their crews did not receive any specialized training on prevention and safety measures. Most NGOs emphasized that they do not have a budget to fully cover the emergency plan.
Fourth: The recommendations of the civil organizations, as stated in the questionnaire:
- Working with all donors to fund NGOs while conducting exploratory surveys on the needs of NGOs, funding gaps as well as the sources of funding to attract donors.
- Ensuring the participation of NGOs, including small organizations, in obtaining funding opportunities to ensure the continuity of their work.
- Forming an emergency committee to deal with this crisis and its repercussions and organizing a systematized campaign to influence the donors’ agenda and policies through direct dialogue while providing visions and proposals.
- Working to strengthen the capacities of NGOs in the administrative aspects of purchases and logistical support and work to create enabling policies for institutions to work efficiently during crises.
- Coordinating between civil society organizations and various bodies, exchanging reports and material to face the crisis, and coordinating with the ministries of the Interior, Health, and Social Development.
- Working to find urgent aid for families affected by work halts and families who cannot provide safety and prevention equipment.
- Continuing the work of civil society organizations within the protective measures to ensure the continuity of providing health services as well as protecting women, children, people with disabilities, and the elderly while providing psychological and legal counseling support services.
 During Mars 2020 PNGO conducted a survey where 60 NGOs responded.
 PNGO is an umbrella for NGOs and is consists of 69 members. PNGO sectors in the Gaza Strip includes: health – education – rehabilitation – protection (women and children) – agriculture – and youth.