Unlike any other crisis that hit Gaza before, the Covid-19 crisis is invisible. It is like a snowball that keeps expanding. I worry that it may become an avalanche that engulfs us all.
Gaza is already exhausted after 13 years of a very tight embargo, one imposed on two million people, half of whom are children. The economy has collapsed and the health system is close to breaking point.
To make matters worse, Gaza barely used to get eight hours of electricity every 24 hours. This means no water supply, which directly contributes to pollution and the spread of disease. Increased restrictions on the main border crossing, imposed this week, have led to further fuel shortages. We only get four or five hours of electricity per day now.
Municipalities and public service institutions have for some time been asking Islamic Relief to support with fuel for generators, but the needs here are so great that we lack the resources to help with this on top of everything else we do.
Islamic Relief’s focus is to provide food for families in lockdown. Around 50,000 families are expected to become food insecure after losing their daily income because of the lockdown. We are also supporting hospitals with essential needs. Coronavirus cases have been discovered at the Strip’s main hospital.
Families face deepening poverty and suffering
My children, like many other students, have already lost half of the last year since schools closed to curb the spread of the virus. Now the new school year has begun we looked forward to children restarting their education, but with coronavirus in our communities, the schools have closed again.
I worry not just about their lost education, but also about the immense stress children are under as they are stuck at home – and of course, the anxiety they cause their parents and guardians! The younger children are easier, but teenagers are struggling with the loss of independence and the social isolation that comes with lockdown.
As a humanitarian worker as well as a father, I worry how the most vulnerable people will survive the lockdown. I believe that no more than 20% of Gazans were able to stock up on supplies in the hours before lockdown. The rest – the poorest, older people, people with disabilities – are going without.
Many rely on charity to meet their basic needs. Without a refrigerator or electricity, they have no way to store fresh food. In normal circumstances, Islamic Relief would be a lifeline for these households but our operations are suspended in the lockdown and the shops are closed.
How will they eat and feed their children now? How with older people and those who are sick get the medication they need? I want to help them.