The coronavirus has made health a top priority for individuals, communities and nations around the world. In the midst of the pandemic, people living with chronic and life-threatening diseases are even more vulnerable than they were before.
Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. At the time of writing there are 55 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the thin strip of land home to around 2 million people.
The big challenge for Caritas Jerusalem is to continue providing healthcare to the vulnerable population while taking the utmost hygiene precautions.
Ameen Sabbagh, the executive director of Caritas Jerusalem’s Gaza office says:
“At this dreadful time, we are working two shifts a day – 15 hours in the health centre – and we have mobile medical teams visiting 15 locations around the strip.”
A helping hand in time of crisis
The Caritas Jerusalem Gaza health centre is a hub for outreach work. It also employs specialist doctors and last year started offering the services of a cardiologist, internist, paediatrician, dermatologist, gynaecologist and an ultrasound specialist.
“On average we see 300 patients a day and they are made very much aware of the risk of the spread of the virus,” says Ameen. “We are taking all the precautions and following the guidelines of the Ministry of Health. We see that many countries that are far better prepared than us cannot deal with the virus so we do not even want to imagine what would be the effect if it ever spreads in Gaza where over 2 million people live in conditions of unbearable overcrowding.”
Some 80% of Gaza’s population depends on humanitarian aid. Around 90% of households don’t have access to clean water. Caritas Jerusalem’s help is vital to many people who’ve suffered years of war, hunger and blockades.
Caritas continues work in communities on health education, nutrition and raising awareness among the elderly to reduce their dependence on medicines and make them more aware of their human rights.
“The church as a field hospital”
Among their community based projects is a deworming project for malnourished children in refugee camps and a dental project targeting 3 schools to offer dental checkups and oral hygiene lectures.
The Mobile Medical Team 1 provides basic primary care services to serve the vulnerable populations in marginalised areas in Gaza during non- emergency.
The Mobile Medical Team 2 provides services to the wounded from the border clashes. Caritas dresses the wounds of the injured and gives them any necessary medications.
The Caritas teams in Gaza have accompanied Gazans through bombings, hunger and humanitarian tragedy. They have a contingency plan in place in the case that COVID-19 spreads though communities in the same way it has in many places in the world.
In the meantime, as Gazans try to get on with their lives we ask you to pray that Gaza and the poor and overcrowded places in the world will be spared from the pandemic, and that the post-pandemic future offers an end to their struggles.
You can support the crucial work of Caritas in response to COVID-19 by donating for Caritas Internationalis’ COVID-19 Response Fund.