Qatar announces $150 million in aid to Gaza, including funds to fight virus
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Qatar announces $150 million in aid to Gaza, including funds to fight virus

World Health Organization representative to Palestinians says coastal enclave needs more support from international community to stave off contagion

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Hospital cleaners hold signs thanking Qatar and wave Qatari and Palestinian flags during a press conference by Matthias Schmale, UNRWA's director in Gaza, and the Qatari envoy, Mohammed Al-Emadi, at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza, on February 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Hospital cleaners hold signs thanking Qatar and wave Qatari and Palestinian flags during a press conference by Matthias Schmale, UNRWA's director in Gaza, and the Qatari envoy, Mohammed Al-Emadi, at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza, on February 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

The Qatari monarch, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, has ordered aid valued at $150 million to be delivered to the Gaza Strip over the coming six months, the state-run Qatar News Agency reported on Sunday.

The funds will support “lessening the brotherly Palestinian people’s suffering,” humanitarian projects operated by the United Nations in Gaza, and efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, the QNA report said.

Qatar has recently poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Gaza for fuel to power the coastal enclave’s sole power plant, stipends for impoverished families, UN temporary employment programs and other efforts.

In December 2019, Mohammed al-Emadi, the head of the Qatari Gaza Reconstruction Committee, said that his country would provide funds for the fuel, the payments to poor families and the UN temporary employment programs through March, while noting it would likely continue to do so afterward.

The QNA report about the Qatari ruler’s directive appeared to confirm that Doha will continue to back the projects it has been supporting in Gaza.

The report, however, did not clarify how much of the $150 million would be allocated to preventing the proliferation of the coronavirus in Gaza.

The first cases of the virus in Gaza were revealed on Sunday morning after two people, who recently traveled to Pakistan, tested positive for COVID-19.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani attends the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit at Bayan palace in Kuwait City on December 5, 2017. (Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

The two were held at a quarantine facility before being diagnosed with the disease and were then transferred to a special field hospital at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, Ashraf al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry, told reporters on Sunday.

Twenty-nine people who came close to the two patients, including two top officials in the Hamas-run security forces, were placed in isolation, Qidra said.

Asked whether Gaza was prepared to deal with an outbreak of the virus, Gerald Rockenshaub, the head of World Health Organization’s mission to the Palestinians, said the territory “is a challenging environment and a very crowded environment.”

“The social determinants for health are not good here. So there is a number of people who are at risk through the poor living conditions and there is shortages everywhere in medications, electricity and supplies,” he said on Sunday, standing outside the Health Ministry in Gaza. “We are trying to address this but it’s a very challenging and difficult environment.”

Israel’s blockade on Gaza, which has been aided by Egypt, has significantly undermined the territory’s health sector.

Israeli officials maintain that the blockade, a series of restrictions on the movement of goods and people, is in place to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from importing weapons, or the means to make them, into Gaza.

Rockenschaub also said increased support from the international community was necessary to help Gaza stave off the contagion. He specifically noted the territory needs additional kits to test for the virus, protective gear for health professionals and “medical supplies and equipment to scale up the treatment capacities.”

On Friday, Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations’ deputy special coordinator to the Middle East peace process, said he released $1 million to support efforts to confront the virus in Gaza as well as the West Bank.

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