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ACTED COVID-19 response through the oPt Humanitarian Fund

30 Jul 2020


ACTED staff load a truck with items for quarantine sites. Credit: ACTED

By Merna Alazzeh (Monitoring and Reporting in oPt), Claudia Hargaten and Lara Palmisano (Public Information in New York)

People living in quarantine in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) are benefiting from an emergency response project implemented in 2019 by the NGO Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development (ACTED), with support from the oPt Humanitarian Fund (oPt HF).

In early March 2020, the Palestinian Authority (PA) triggered a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and imposed restrictions to contain its spread. But earlier this month, the number of Palestinians in oPt who had contracted COVID-19 more than doubled in a two-week span, reaching 7,734 on 14 July.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, some 30,000 Palestinians are now in home-based or facility-based quarantine. However, the situation is more intense in the Gaza Strip, where living conditions have been undermined by a prolonged blockade and internal political divisions; 2 million Palestinians remain ‘locked in’, denied free access to the remainder of the territory and the outside world. The movement of goods and supplies into the strip is constrained, and global shortages of medical equipment and the disruption of coordination between the PA and Israel, in response to Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, have significantly disrupted the procurement of key medical equipment.

Fortunately, quarantine sites in the Gaza Strip are now reaping the benefits of the oPt HF-funded project that ACTED implemented early last year to strengthen the preparedness of the Rafah community in the Gaza Strip in case of natural or human-made hazards. In three warehouses across Rafah Governorate, ACTED stockpiled non-food items (NFIs) comprising shelter, protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene items to cover crisis-related needs.  

As part of the project, ACTED also established a Community-based Emergency Response Network (CERN) comprising volunteers, local community-based organizations and protection committees. ACTED trained CERN members in building the network’s emergency preparedness capacity. This included training on protection issues, such as gender-based violence and psychological first aid, and developing a contingency plan to assess needs, organize the response and distribute NFIs during a crisis.

The project is now proving its worth. Despite the unprecedented dimension of the COVID-19 outbreak, CERN was ready to support 20 quarantine sites in the Gaza Strip once they were established, and after prior coordination with ACTED, OCHA and the local authorities.

ACTED staff load items from the warehouse to the trucks that will distribute items among quarantine sites in the Gaza Strip. Credit: ACTED

ACTED rapidly provided over 7,000 NFIs to equip the quarantine sites during March and April. Items included mattresses, blankets, hygiene kits, cleaning kits and clothing. These items were delivered to help improve hygiene conditions in the sites and ensure preservance of basic dignity.

Laura Deprez, ACTED Programme Coordinator, said: “No one expected the COVID-19 outbreak or the magnitude it would have. At the pandemic’s outburst, we all expected the worst in Palestine, especially in Gaza, where COVID-19 would have had dramatic repercussions if not contained in an appropriate and timely manner. I’m extremely proud of our CERN members and ACTED team in Gaza for their commitment, reactivity and relentless efforts to contain the spread of this pandemic during exceptionally challenging times. While you can never expect a crisis such as the one we are witnessing today, it is our duty as humanitarian aid workers to prepare ourselves and the communities we serve for any scenario.”