Dear Supporter,
Welcome to our October 2020 Newsletter, keeping you updated on our vital work.

1. WA Emergency Interventions – Covid-19 Pandemic in Palestine and Lebanon
In February 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread rapidly across the globe, the health sector in Gaza was already facing major challenges, with a lack of drugs and medical supplies due to the continued closure of the Gaza crossings. The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 39% of essential drugs and 31% of medical disposables were at zero stock. Between October 5th and October 19th 2020, there were over 6,600 new Covid-19 cases recorded in the occupied Palestinian territories. The capacity of the healthcare system to handle the flood of Covid-19 cases, especially in Gaza, continues to be of significant concern. As of October 19th, there have been 59,595 cases in Palestine, with 6,703 active cases and 492 deaths.[1]

Families are struggling with rising unemployment rates coupled with the effects of  the pandemic: emergency food distribution have been severely limited by Covid-19 restrictions; workers in some sectors have been denied entry into Israel; school closures, and unsuitable conditions for home isolation. In Gaza thousands have still not been able to return to homes that were damaged in the 2014 conflict, and continue to live in the overcrowded homes of relatives. Additionally, while schools in the West Bank have been opened since 20th September, 90 have already had to close again, either temporarily or fully, due to Covid-19 outbreaks.

Although most hospitals across the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, have opened dedicated wards to treat people suffering from more serious symptoms of Covid-19, the Palestinian Ministry of Health and NGO health service providers in Gaza have struggled. They have not been able to provide the necessary health care services, testing, or preventive materials to combat the spread of the virus, or treat patients with the virus effectively. Gaza now has the highest percentage of active cases, while Hebron and East Jerusalem account for over 50 percent of total cases. On October 2nd, the Palestinian Authority announced a 30-day extension of the state of emergency in the West Bank. A full lockdown in Israel, including East Jerusalem, saw the closure of almost all businesses deemed non-essential and was extended by 3 weeks, until it was eased on October 17th. 

In March 2020, Welfare Association began a number of emergency interventions to help hospitals and families deal with the impact of Covid-19. Welfare Assocation has been supporting ten NGO hospitals and health centres in Gaza through the provision of essential protective equipment and supplies. Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes masks, face visors, gloves and preventive supplies, such as hand sanitisers, disinfectant, bleach and detergent. We are also providing ventilators and essential ICU equipment to Al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

During the Holy Month of Ramadan, we distributed essential hygiene kits to 1,156 families in Gaza, almost double our inital target of 600 families. We also distributed 10,200 bottles of drinking water to people in quarantine in Gaza, and 575 fresh food parcels to a further 115 families.

In another Gaza-based project, we distributed 5,163 packages of fresh food items to 1,000 families throughout Ramadan. These healthy food packages included chicken, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables, and distributions prioritised the most vulnerable families, including families supporting 180 people with disabilities and 640 chronically ill people. We were able to extend this programme to include a further 163 families. In another project, funded by our public appeal, we provided 1,050 fresh food parcels in Gaza to 210 families, helping all of these families to cope with the very difficult conditions of Covid-19.

In Rashidieh Refugee Camp in Lebanon, we provided vouchers to more than 700 familes, supporting more than 2,700 individuals. These vouchers were exchanged for food and essential household items in local prequalified supermarkets. 

For more information on our emergency food distributions in Gaza, please view our project clip:

2. Emergency Support to Restore Gaza Farmers Livelihoods

Thousands of households in Gaza are dependent on agricultural livelihoods, including 30,000 families of farmers, herders and fishermen, many have still not recovered from debilitating damage and losses as a result of the conflict in 2014. Thousands of these farmers have been unable to replant their land and replace the crops, equipment and assets they lost during the conflict, and as a result they face mounting debts. This is a critical issue given the agricultural sector is currently the only productive sector contributing to minimising food insecurity in Gaza.

In 2019-20, Welfare Association worked with farmers in the north and south of Gaza to replant two dunums (1 dunum = approx. 1000 square metres) of land each. Project activities included: clearing and ploughing the land, providing seedlings and irrigation networks, and bringing additional workers (through the creation of paid temporary employment opportunities) to 

assist the farmers and their families. The farmers also received the latest technical advice, coaching and mentioning support. They were encouraged to select crops that were in short supply in nearby markets to contribute to local food security, to plant more than one crop and to plant crops most appropriate to their soil type and water availability, in order to maximise the quality and quantity of their crops, as well as being able to sell at a fair price when harvested. In two projects restoring Gaza farmers’ livelihoods in 2019-20:  77 farmers replanted 154 dunums of land in the north of Gaza, and 203 farmers replanted 406 dunums of land in southern Gaza. A total of 280 farmers successfully restored their livelihoods, and they replanted 560 dunums of land. All were able to sell their crops, pay off some of their debts and support their families again. All are planning to plant again in the coming seasons, and some farmers will also replant additional areas of their land.

3. WA Emergency Appeal – Beirut Blast – 4 August 2020
On 4 August 2020, a fire broke out in Warehouse 12 (where 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate had been poorly stored), near the huge grain silos at Beirut’s port in Lebanon. As the roof of the warehouse caught fire there was large explosion followed by a number of smaller ones. This was followed by a massive blast with a huge mushroom cloud visible. This blast flattened the buildings at the port and caused extensive damage in the surrounding area, blowing out the windows of Beirut International Airport five miles away. News Agencies reported 300,000 people were made homeless, 200 were killed, 5,000 injured and damages were estimated at £8-11 billion (as reported by the BBC[2]). The blast crater is 460ft wide and the effects of the blast were felt more than 120 miles away in Cyprus. Experts from the University of Sheffield estimated that the explosion was about a tenth of the intensity of the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.

According to the World Health Organisation, the impact on health infrastructure includes three hospitals rendered non-functional, three substantially damaged, and many primary care facilities damaged.  Essential food and medical supplies were also affected, especially as Beirut’s main grain silos were badly damaged.  Other infrastructure, including roads, as well as businesses, educational facilities and historic buildings have been severely hit. 

Welfare Association launched an Emergency Appeal and is supporting one of the most badly affected hospitals, the Beirut Governmental Hospital in Karantina, located just 400 metres from the blast site. This hospital is the central hub for the provision of services to patients who do not have health insurance. Most of the physical structure of this hospital is severely damaged, including broken windows, damaged walls and roof, and with much of the equipment destroyed or damaged. All patients, including children and new-born babies from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) were evacuated. The hospital, as well as its regular departments, has a special department for the treatment of children diagnosed with COVID-19, all were evacuated.  It also has five storage units for medical supplies, vaccines and medicine for chronic diseases. As a result of the explosion, three of these five storage units were destroyed (along with all of their essential medicines and supplies). This hospital serves one of the most impoverished communities in Beirut and is located within an area of high deprivation, housing some of the poorest foreign workers, refugees and Lebanese families.  The Karantina hospital provides services to the most marginalized families requiring medical care. Welfare Association will provide essential equipment for the hospital, in order to help make it operational as soon as possible, and help those most badly affected.

Hanan’s story.

Hanan working in a temporary neonatal unit facility.

Hanan is a nurse in the paediatric and neonatal care department at Karantina Governmental Hospital and was on duty at the time of the explosion.

Hanan said “Moments after the explosion, it took us time to try to make sense of what was happening. The ground shook, the destruction was massive and there was smoke everywhere, we could not see. We were physically thrown by the explosion. We began to shout the names of our colleagues ‘Zainab, Fatima, Nasreen’, and moved as quickly as possible to reach the children. I started to cry when I found one of my colleagues on the ground covered with blood, saying she could not see. I helped her to stand and then continued to where the children were. The destruction of the ward was catastrophic.

“Luckily, the incubators worked as a shield and protected the infants from the walls that had collapsed. The four of us managed to get 11 children out. The destruction was frightening, it was so bad that only army vehicles managed to access the hospital and help us evacuate. I did not stop crying all that time, I still shiver from the horror and fear of those moments. When I reached the other side of the hospital, I found it completely destroyed with the operating room door pulled off its hinges – meanwhile an operation on a child was still continuing. I believe, a divine intervention saved us and all of those newborn babies that day. A day I wish to completely erase from my memory. I hope we will be able to restore the hospital to its full capacity with all of the services it provided previously.”

Please support our projects to help more vulnerable Palestinian families