Coronavirus in an ‘open air prison’
April 28, 2020
Gaza has been described as an ‘open air prison’ in terms of the brutal siege is has been under since 2007. The siege alongside three mass bombardments and ongoing violence has caused the stagnation of Gaza’s economy, stunted the health sector and decimated its infrastructure.
There are 2 million people in Gaza, and 80% of the population is reliant on international assistance to meet their basic needs. Gaza has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and food insecurity is a concern exacerbated during conflict or situations such as the current lockdown.
Whilst many of us are concerned about shopping and ensuring we have everything needs, many families in Gaza must choose between clean water, medicines or food.
95% of the water is unsafe to drink and families cannot rely on their tap water in the same way we do. Bottled water is a necessity but is often expensive and many families are reliant on water from local desalination plants. These plants allow people to fill up their own bottles or make deliveries via tankers. During a lockdown, this is still essential but increases risks for families.
For many vulnerable families, it may be too risky to make a trip to the supermarket, and this often leaves them reliant on others. The lockdown will impact employment and impoverish people further causing greater reliance on external support.
Without regular electricity, many people will be unable to buy frozen food or meat and this has an impact on how much families can stock up and use during a lockdown.
The cramped living conditions across the Gaza Strip and custom of many generations living together also adds risk. People will health issues and even pregnant women are left fearful as to how they will receive treatment and avoid harming their families.
Many people in Gaza suffer from ongoing trauma and a lockdown and outbreak are likely to have severe consequences on mental health. Women are vulnerable to domestic abuse, as we have seen reported across the world and those with addictions or depression will also struggle. There are few safety nets and support networks with a focus on survival, many may not even seek out help or talk to their own families.
Lockdowns across are highlighting the vulnerabilities facing individuals and even everyday acts such as shopping or travelling to work are tinged with fear and worry. The people of Gaza are not only under siege by the occupation, but also now by the Coronavirus. They have endured much suffering and it is important they do not face this current crisis alone.