The fitting to well being within the Occupied Palestinian Territory amid the COVID-19 pandemic (A/HRC/46/NGO/89) – occupied Palestinian territory

Human Rights Council
Forty-sixth session
February 22 to March 19, 2021
Agenda items 2 and 7
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports from the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

Written declaration * submitted by Medical Aid for Palestians (MAP), a non-governmental organization with special advisory status

The Secretary-General has received the following written statement, which will be distributed in accordance with resolution 1996/31 of the Economic and Social Council. [01 February 2021]

The right to health in the Occupied Palestinian Territory amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Overview and legal framework

Medical Aid for Palestians (MAP) is a humanitarian and development organization operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Lebanon. Our main areas of work are women’s and children’s health; Disability; mental health and psychosocial support; and emergency response, including providing basic equipment, medicines, training and other resources to assist Palestinian health services in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We would like to express our deep concern about the ongoing violations of the Palestinians’ right to health throughout the OPT during the COVID-19 pandemic.

International humanitarian law provides that Israel, as the occupying power, is responsible for ensuring access to health care and essential health resources for the Palestinian people under its control, and for taking and applying the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of infectious diseases and epidemics are . “1 As a State party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Israel is also committed to taking steps to fully realize the right to the highest possible standard of physical and mental health.

The Palestinian Authority and the de facto authorities in Gaza also have an obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the Palestinians’ right to health insofar as they are able to comply with the constraints imposed by the Israeli occupation

Effects of COVID-19 in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

As of the end of January, there were 178,919 confirmed coronavirus cases in the OPT and 2,012 deaths. Up to 8,000 Palestinian medical professionals have reportedly been infected.3 A surge in coronavirus cases in December put the Gaza Health Service on the verge of collapse, and there is still a serious risk of system overload if there is another in the future Rise is coming. 4th

Healthcare facilities in Gaza face chronic shortages of adequate infrastructure. Human resources; essential equipment; Oxygen production capacity for patients in need of airway support; Electricity and fuel; and other supplies needed to deal with widespread outbreaks of the virus.5 45% of all essential drugs and 33% of all essential medical supplies are available at the central drug store in the Gaza Strip, including less than a month or fully depleted of those needed for treatment needed by coronavirus.

The diversion of resources and hospital capacity is having serious implications for non-COVID health services like cancer treatment. Around 3,500 election operations are postponed every month in Gaza. The waiting list has now reached 11,400, including hundreds still in need of complex limb reconstruction due to injuries from live ammunition against protesters in 2018-19. “Protests against the Great March of Return.6 In the West Bank, outpatient hospital admissions have decreased by 50 %.7

Secondary impacts on poverty, food insecurity and mental health

Lockdowns and other public health measures have exacerbated unemployment, economic hardship and food insecurity for Palestinian families. Across the OPT, 40% of households cut food spending in the first three months (March to May) of the COVID-19 crisis.8 The rate of destruction of Palestinian homes and other structures by Israeli authorities reached a four-year high in 2020. Disproportionate impact on Bedouin communities in Area C, impairment of livelihoods and increasing vulnerability to food insecurity and dependency

Many families in Gaza who had to be isolated, sometimes for two weeks or more, due to coronavirus infections, had increasing difficulties. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and is challenging the necessary social distancing measures. 50% of these families do not have a separate bedroom or bathroom for members who tested positive, 30% do not have protective masks or gloves and 60% report that at least one family member shows signs of mental distress.10 Access to education is also affected, 42% of the children report difficulties with distance learning due to daily power outages, lack of necessary equipment or insufficient internet connection.

Discrimination in Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

The effects of the ongoing military occupation and blockade mean that the local Palestinian health system does not have the financial or material resources necessary to sustain the COVID19 response in the long term. Since the pandemic is supposed to turn into a crisis lasting several years, only a mass vaccination program can sustainably avoid a worsening humanitarian crisis.

By the end of January, Israel had given at least one vaccine dose to more than a quarter of its population, the highest per capita vaccination rate in the world.11 Only citizens of Israel, including Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, are included in the Israeli government’s vaccine distribution policy included.

The nearly five million Palestinians living under Israel’s 53-year military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are excluded from the Israeli vaccination program. No Palestinians were reportedly vaccinated in these areas at the end of January. Media reports have indicated that Israel may offer the Palestinian Authority (PA) a small number of vaccines as a “humanitarian gesture.” 12 However, Israel has not offered sufficient public supplies or aid to ensure that a comprehensive vaccination program is available to Palestinians is.

The PA applied to the global COVAX facility, although such support only covers up to 20% of its population and it can take months to fully deliver. The Palestinian Ministry of Health has issued a preliminary national vaccination plan outlining how COVAX support will be introduced. However, since further deliveries still have to be agreed, it is unclear how a fast and comprehensive vaccination program can realistically be implemented throughout the OPT. The chronic financial crisis, as well as resource and infrastructure constraints on the Palestinian Authority and de facto authorities in Gaza, largely caused by decades of occupation and blockade, are severely affecting their ability to buy and administer vaccines for the population.


The current unequal situation regarding access to vaccines shows the decades of structural discrimination against the Palestinians and the systematic neglect of their rights to health and dignity that shaped the policies and practices of the Israeli occupation.

A situation where most Israelis are vaccinated but not their Palestinian neighbors would inevitably deepen existing health inequalities. tightening restrictions on the free movement of Palestinians and access to work, health care and livelihood; and a deepening humanitarian crisis in the OPT.

The ongoing scarcity of essential health care resources, 13 ongoing restrictions on the free movement of patients and medical personnel, 14 and ongoing attacks on Palestinian health facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic15 confirm the 2018 United Nations Special Rapporteur’s finding that Israel is itself in “profound violation of its international obligations regarding the Palestinians’ right to health, despite the sharply increased needs arising from the pandemic.16 This reflects a continuing failure by the international community to ensure compliance with Geneva Convention IV in the Ensure EU holds OPT and Israel accountable for its violations of the Palestinians’ right to health.

Palestinians must be given immediate, full, expeditious and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and other vital health resources, in accordance with the duties and obligations set out in international law. Once a vaccine is made available, the Palestinian authorities must work to implement a comprehensive and equitable vaccination program across the West Bank and Gaza that is primarily accessible to the elderly, health care workers, people with pre-existing clinical vulnerabilities and people with learning difficulties.


In view of the above, we urge all member states of the Human Rights Council to: 17

  1. Take urgent action to ensure that Israel complies with its duty as the Occupying Power to ensure that Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have fair, prompt and equitable access to coronavirus vaccines and other vital health resources in the event of inadequate local supplies is.

  2. Publicly monitor Israel’s compliance with its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law and support international initiatives to promote accountability when these are not observed;

  3. Urge the Palestinian Authority to take all possible steps to provide access to coronavirus vaccines and health care for all people across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as far as the restrictions and financial constraints imposed by the occupation allow . and

  4. Help the Palestinian Ministry of Health implement a fair, expeditious and comprehensive vaccination program, respond to the humanitarian needs created by COVID19, and do better post-pandemic recovery.

Comments are closed.