What little is talked about, however, is the fact that Israel – despite Netanyahu’s government appeals to the Oslo accords to reject the calls to its duties by the international community – as an occupying force is responsible also for the vaccinations of the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories. But at the moment in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, no real Israeli commitment is on the horizon.
A duty that has been recently reaffirmed also by the United Nations Special Referent on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Occupied Territories Michael Lynk, and by the United Nations Special Referent on the right to physical and mental health, Tlaleng Mofokeng. Both have indeed highlighted that the Oslo accords do not exempt Israel from its obligations to respect international humanitarian law, also underlining that “the ultimate responsibility for health services lies with the occupying power until the occupation is definitively terminated”.
Faced with some limited efforts to provide vaccines to the Palestinian Authority, Israel currently has basically refused to publicly acknowledge its legal obligations related to epidemic prevention and mitigation in Palestine. As of April 1, out of a population of 4.7 million people, just 83,822 people have been vaccinated: 60,029 in the West Bank and 23,793 in Gaza. To these must be added about 120,000 workers Palestinians who work in Israel and received the first dose of the vaccine.
The health emergency in Gaza and the West Bank
In the West Bank, despite a small decline in positives, hospitals organized to respond to Covid are on the verge of saturation, and the occupancy rate of intensive care places is 100%, while that of mechanical fans in use at 47%.
In Gaza the number of infections is doubling from week to week – at the moment they represent 34.3% of the 25 thousand total cases in Palestine – while the places in intensive care – just 90 for a population of 2 million inhabitants – are 38% busy. A lack of health facilities that in the face of the new wave of infections raises fears of a worsening of the situation in the coming days.
The first vaccines arrived on March 16 and 17 through the CoVax mechanism: 61,440 between Pfizer e AstraZeneca, followed in late March by China’s donation of 100,000 doses of Sinopharm, 70,000 of Sputnik V (60,000 from the United Arab Emirates and 10,000 from Russia) and other donations from Gulf countries for a total of about 260,000 doses.
The appeal to Israel and the Palestinian Authority
Today, on the occasion of World Health Day, like Oxfam We therefore appeal for Israel to guarantee access to the means necessary to store and distribute vaccines in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, as well as to other necessary medical supplies, should an insufficient supply be found.
The Palestinian Authority should, likewise, make clear publicly and clearly immediate needs in terms of vaccine supplies, taking all necessary measures, as permitted by the restrictions and financial limits imposed by the occupation, to implement a vaccination program fair and inclusive for all people living in the Gaza and West Bank territories. In other words, Israel in Palestine should never cooperate as in this moment, each in compliance with their obligations, for the good of all.
Oxfam’s response in Palestine
In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Oxfam has been working since the outbreak of the pandemic to prevent and contain the spread of the infection alongside about 750,000 people, with the aim of guaranteeing access to clean water, safe sanitation and electricity from sources renewable. It is also helping over 135,000 people a Gaza, through the distribution of sanitation kits, protective equipment, and the rehabilitation of water sources that serve the poorest and most vulnerable communities.