Gaza asks: How is living under quarantine?

Laura Hayek

Researcher for ImpACT International

Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), nearly the whole world has been locked down to prevent the spread of such a highly contagious virus. People everywhere are showing signs of extreme distress. All aspects of life have been paralyzed: educational institutions have suspended classes, many businesses are laying off employees and health systems are collapsing. But in the Gaza Strip, a very small area on this planet, residents have been politically quarantined for 13 consecutive years. 

While most people around the world have led a free life until now, isolation is not new to Gazan Palestinians

In an attempt to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, borders between many countries are sealed and flights are suspended. What may be shocking for many to learn is that this has been the reality for Gaza since 2007! The movement of people to and from Gaza has been severely constrained for more than a decade. As a result, thousands of Palestinian students have lost invaluable opportunities to pursue their studies abroad, the severely ill cannot receive proper treatment due to a shortage of equipment and medicine. They also cannot travel elsewhere to get it.

Likewise, while many people around the world are eager to relieve their now-more-than-a-month-long quarantine to visit with friends scattered elsewhere, hundreds of Palestinian fathers and mothers have not been allowed to reunite with sons and daughters who live abroad for over 13 years.

"The world is paying heavily for this crisis," is the global refrain. There is pervasive worry that the coronavirus crisis will permanently disrupt business and result in unemployment rates as “astronomical” as 30%. But in the coastal enclave, youth unemployment reaching nearly 70% (52% overall!).  It is almost impossible for any significant business to operate due to Israel’s ban on most exports.

While most people around the world have led a free life until now, isolation is not new to Gazan Palestinians. We ask the question: For how long must Palestinians tolerate conditions that most others can’t handle for a month?

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