Gaza’s humanitarian situation remains deeply concerning. Recently, services to Palestinian refugees have come under increasing pressure, especially in Gaza where there has been a significant deterioration in both the humanitarian and economic situation.
I welcome the vital support that the UK is providing to help respond to Covid-19 in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The UK’s £840,000 funding contribution is enabling the WHO and UNICEF to purchase and co-ordinate the delivery of medical equipment, treat critical care patients, train frontline public health personnel and scale up laboratory testing capacity. The Foreign Secretary also recently announced a further £2.7 million funding to UN agencies to provide food assistance, medical supplies and personal protection for the most vulnerable Palestinians.
It is concerning that the UN assesses that the capacity of the Palestinian health system to cope with an expected increase in Covid-19 cases is poor, although the current number of detected cases remains relatively low. The situation is particularly severe in Gaza, where the health system has shortages in specialised staff, drugs and equipment. I am told that the Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth discussed the situation with the Israeli Ambassador to the UK at the end of April, and the UK continues to monitor the situation.
More widely, I am proud that the UK has been a long supporter of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides primary healthcare to 1.22 million people in Gaza and stability in the wider region. In 2019/20, the UK supported the UNRWA with £65.5 million of funding. The UK has also provided £1.3 million between 2018 and 2021 to support the UN’s Access Coordination Unit (ACU), which works to ensure humanitarian access to Gaza for UN and NGO workers. The ACU has played an important role in facilitating movement of humanitarian personnel and goods during the Covid-19 crisis. As well as this financial support, the UK also regularly raises the issuance of medical permits, which is vital for healthcare for Gazans, with the Israeli authorities.
Of course, only a political solution can provide a just, fair and realistic settlement for Palestinian refugees, but until that time, I know that the UK remains fully committed to supporting the most vulnerable in the region.