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Rights group warns Gaza's healthcare system will 'collapse' in virus outbreak

Voluntary campaign to disinfect houses in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip to as a precautionary step against the coronavirus o 16 March 2020 in Gaza
Voluntary campaign to disinfect houses in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip to as a precautionary step against the coronavirus o 16 March 2020 in Gaza [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has urged intervention "before it is too late" to prevent a healthcare system "collapse" in the Gaza Strip in the case of a coronavirus outbreak.

According to PCHR, there is the real risk of "a catastrophic deterioration that would strike the health care sector in the case of a Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak" in the crowded territory.

"The healthcare facilities in Gaza are already on the verge of collapse due to the Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip for the last 13 years, exacerbated by the repercussions of the Palestinian internal division and political bickering", the rights NGO stated.

"All of this has caused a fragile healthcare system in the Gaza Strip, a perpetual shortage of essential drugs and medical devices and insufficient number of specialized health professionals", rendering the system "unable to meet the basic medical needs of the Gaza Strip population in normal times".

READ: UN chief calls for immediate worldwide ceasefire to fight coronavirus

Israeli restrictions have prevented authorities "from importing new medical devices or spare parts for malfunctioning ones", creating a shortage that constitutes "a major obstacle for the development and sustainability" of healthcare facilities.

As noted by PCHR, on 19 March, Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said in a statement that he is worried about the potential impact of the virus on the Gaza Strip population.

"A potential large-scale outbreak will also constitute another enormous strain on Gaza's beleaguered health workers who have had to respond, with inadequate resources, to three large-scale military offensives in just over a decade and have had to treat thousands of casualties from the 'Great March of Return' protests", Lynk stated.

READ: Gaza faces coronavirus alone after a 14-year lockdown

PCHR reaffirmed that "the primary responsibility for providing medical supplies to the Gaza Strip population lies with Israel and it must take all necessary preventive measures available to combat the spread of infectious diseases in accordance with Articles 55 and 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949".

PCHR also urged the international community and World Health Organisation "to put pressure on Israel and compel it to comply with its obligations, and to allow the entry of medical supplies and equipment necessary for Coronavirus medical examination".

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