The Big Heart Foundation, a Sharjah-based global humanitarian organization, has contributed US$ 100,000 to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to protect Palestine refugees in Gaza from exposure to and impact of the virus, amidst rising numbers of persons affected by COVID-19 around the world.
UNRWA said in a press release issued on February 15 that this contribution will provide frontline UNRWA staff at 22 health centres in Gaza with critical protective equipment to ensure uninterrupted delivery of health services to Palestine refugees while limiting the spread of COVID-19 and protecting the refugee community.
As of 8 February 2021, 52,599 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the Gaza Strip, 18,523 of whom are from within the Palestine refugee community. 529 people in Gaza have died as a result of COVID-19.
At this moment of unprecedented pressure on health-care systems around the world, UNRWA said it is facing the worst funding crisis in its history. The Agency is the primary health-care provider for the vast majority of the nearly 1.54 million Palestine refugees in Gaza – one of the most densely populated areas on earth.
Years of blockade and movement restrictions on people and materials, including medical supplies, have severely challenged the capacity of health-care services in Gaza. Hospitals lack adequate physical infrastructure, medication, supplies and infection prevention materials. In this context, the unchecked outbreak of COVID-19 in Gaza has the potential to have disastrous consequences to the more than 2 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.
“This generous support from the Big Heart Foundation comes at a time of enormous need,” said UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini. “Psychological trauma, poverty, and environmental degradation have contributed to acute mental and physical health challenges in Gaza, which have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. By limiting the spread and providing quality care to infected people, we can save lives.”
UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA programme budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall.