Understaffed and under equipped in Gaza

Nine cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, have now been reported in the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Mona El-Farra, the health chair of the Palestine Red Crescent Society in Gaza, told The Electronic Intifada that only “one case is enough to know that the pandemic is coming.”

El-Farra, who is also a member of the Union of Health Work Committees and director of Gaza projects for the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA), said there were only 40 functioning intensive care unit beds for a population of two million.

“Beds need staff, and we are understaffed and under equipped,” she added.

In addition to a shortage of beds, El-Farra said hospitals lack protective equipment and testing kits.

“We don’t have enough kits,” she said. “We have, up to this minute, just around 200 kits for diagnosis [and] at the moment we have 2,500 people in quarantine. They all need to be tested.”

Physicians are trying to increase the public’s awareness of the virus and the necessity of self-isolation inside homes.

El-Farra and her colleagues have started distributing leaflets about the disease and how to take precautions against it.

In cooperation with health organizations on the ground, MECA’s Gaza staff have been distributing hygiene kits and food parcels to vulnerable communities, and have set up hotlines to reach nurses and doctors by phone so patients don’t come to the clinic in person.

Listen to the entire interview with Dr. El-Farra via the media player above.


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).