The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) follows the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip in light of the state of emergency declared by Gaza authorities, and the curfew imposed since Monday evening, 24 August 2020, to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) after 145 coronavirus cases were confirmed and 3 deaths were reported outside the quarantine centers in the Gaza Strip, in addition to 37 other cases detected in quarantine centers in persons returning from Egypt or Israel.
PCHR warns of catastrophic deterioration in the living conditions of the Gaza Strip population, who suffer under the Israeli-imposed closure for the last 14 years, if the state of emergency is maintained for a lengthy period without establishing mechanisms to protect the poor, unemployed and day laborers, and support low-income households who lost their incomes due to the state of emergency and curfew.
Even before the curfew was imposed, which is deemed necessary to protect public safety, the people of the Gaza Strip suffered from harsh living conditions with high rates of unemployment and poverty due to the Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip for the last 14 years and the accompanying restrictions on the movement of persons and goods, the ban on exports, targeted attacks on the industrial and production sectors and destroying 70% of both sectors during past Israeli offensives on the Gaza Strip.
The measures taken by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the spirit of the internal political division, including cutting salaries of hundreds of employees on political grounds, enforcing general salary deductions on all public servant and forcing many into early retirement, have intensified the Gaza Strip crises.
All of the above was a main contributing factor to the increased unemployment rate in the Gaza Strip to 46% (i.e. 211,300 unemployed) and resulted in the outbreak of poverty among its population as the poverty rate reached around 53% according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. Meanwhile, more than 62.2% of the Gaza population suffer from food insecurity according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA.(
The curfew imposed on the Gaza Strip has perpetuated the humanitarian and living crises for its people. In addition to the poor and low-income families, thousands of day laborers at organizations and facilities that were closed due to the state of emergency and curfew (schools, universities, kindergartens, NGOs, civil society organizations, border crossings, wedding halls, cafes and weekly public markets), have lost their source of income that sustained their minimum needs and day-to-day necessities of their families.
In addition, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) announced on Wednesday, 26 August 2020, that the food aid provided to at least one million and one-hundred seventy thousand refugees (1,170,000) in the Gaza Strip will be temporarily suspended until a safer delivery method is determined.
Moreover, the electricity crisis resulting from the shutdown of the only power plant on 18 August 2020, after the Israeli occupation authorities banned the entry of fuel necessary for its operation, exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation before the outbreak of coronavirus inside the Gaza Strip. As a result, the Gaza Strip endures a 20-hour power outage per day. Also, drinking water supply is interrupted for long periods.
Imposing curfew and declaring the state of emergency in the Gaza Strip is a public safety imperative and a national responsibility that must be adhered to in this delicate situation. Parallelly, the Palestinian government has an obligation to guarantee the adequate living and humanitarian conditions for citizens who have lost their sources of income and the minimum standards for a dignified life due to the state of emergency.
In light of the fear of deteriorating living conditions of the Gaza Strip population, especially the poor and low-income people and per-day workers, in the case of a Coronavirus spreads, PCHR:
- Believes that the Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip has led to this catastrophic situation, and the international community bears responsibility for the continuation of the closure for 14 years, due to its utter failure to take effective measures to stop the closure, which encouraged Israel to act as a State above the law and to perpetrate more violations of international human rights law and humanitarian law;
- Reminds Israel of the obligations it owes, as an occupying power of the Gaza Strip to its population, in accordance with Article 55 of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which states: “The occupying Power shall, to the fullest extent of its means, provide the population with food and supplies and must take into account the needs of the civilian population”.
- Calls upon the Palestinian government to urgently intervene to create mechanisms that ensure the protection for the poor and low-income people in light of the exceptional circumstance by allocating budgets to support them and increasing the number of beneficiaries from Ministry of Social Affairs’ programs in the Gaza Strip. Thus, we can ensure the provision of a decent life to Palestinians and enable them to combat Coronavirus and its repercussions.
- Calls upon service providers to postpone collection on due bills, particularly basic services such as water, electricity, communications, education, etc., until the current crisis and emergency measures end.
- Calls upon authorities in the Gaza Strip to provide the necessary healthcare to citizens while they are in quarantine centers, home quarantine or when imposing compulsory quarantine, and that the official authorities provide the necessary basic services (food, drink and shelter) to them, in the case that they are unable to get them.
- Calls upon authorities in the Gaza Strip to combat monopoly and price manipulation.