EU promises COVID-19 vaccines, clean water for Gaza

According to the UN, there are 15,989 Palestinian COVID-19 cases in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and 10,091 in Gaza.

EU Representative Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff speaks at a press conference on Gaza visit, December 8, 2020 (photo credit: COURTESY OFFICE OF THE EU REPRESENTATIVE)
EU Representative Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff speaks at a press conference on Gaza visit, December 8, 2020
European Union officials promised to help provide Gaza with COVID-19 vaccines and clean water, when a delegation from its Office of the EU Representative made a first visit to the Strip in four years on Tuesday.
“We hope that we can very soon help the authorities in having access to the much-needed vaccine, EU Representative Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff told reporters at a Gaza press conference.
“The moment these vaccines become available we will try our utmost, in close cooperation with the United Nations, to facilitate this vaccine to those most in need,” Burgsdorff said, adding that this included the elderly and healthcare workers.
According to the UN, there are 15,989 Palestinian and Arab COVID-19 cases in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and 10,091 in Gaza.
“With COVID-19, the harsh reality for the people of Gaza is quickly deteriorating, and all duty bearers should act now and respect their obligations under international law,” Burgsdorff said.
He also promised that the EU would provide €150 million for the Gaza Central Desalination Plant, which when completed would allow “the entire drinking water needs” of the two million people who live in the Gaza Strip to be “satisfied,” he said.
Next week, Burgsdorff pledged, to sign a contribution agreement between the European Investment Bank and the Palestinian Authority, which would be “the first commitment of the EU to start implementing the project,” he said.
While in Gaza the EU delegation visited an EU-funded smaller-scale desalination plant near Deir al-Balah, which services 75,000 people.
An upgrade to provide water to 250,000 people should be finished this summer, Burgsdorff added.
He also promised the EU would help provide gas for Gaza through a large-scale energy project.
Issues of “water and energy” will be addressed with EU support, he said.
The coastal enclave, located between Israel and Egypt along the Mediterranean Sea, has been under Hamas rule since the terrorist group forcibly ousted Fatah in a bloody coup in 2007.
An Israeli blockade prevents aerial and maritime access to Gaza and pedestrians and goods enter and exit through three crossings, two from Israel, and one from Egypt at Rafah, which is not always open.
Border restrictions and combined tensions between Fatah and Hamas have made it difficult for Palestinians to receive basic services, particularly water, electricity and fuel.
Gaza survives on only 11 hours of electricity per day, and most of its groundwater is contaminated, thereby increasing reliance on electricity to help provide clean water.
This situation, together with the high number of people living below the poverty line, has made it difficult to combat COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has taken a heavy toll on the population of Gaza,” Burgsdorff said.
“We need to demonstrate to you full solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Gaza is for us is an integral part of the Palestinian occupied territories.
“There will not be found a solution for an independent, viable, contiguous and democratic Palestinian state without the full inclusion of Gaza,” Burgsdorff said.
“We are deeply convinced that the human rights of the people of Palestine, their right to self-determination, education, health, food, free access and exit, needs to be respected.
“We have three major duty bearers who all impact on the lives of Gazans. First of all it is the Israeli occupation that maintains full control over the borders of Gaza, of the maritime area of Gaza and the airspace of Gaza,” Burgsdorff said.
“Second, we have the Palestinian Authority, which is the only recognized government of the entire occupied Palestinian territories. Also, the authority has a clear responsibility to the people of the Gaza.
“Third, the de facto authorities [Hamas], who have ruled the strip since 2007 – they are bound by international law, international rights law, and have to respect the principles of good governance and human rights,” Burgsdorff said.
“These three duty bearers have to fulfill their obligations to the people of Gaza.
“Seventy-five percent of the Gaza population is in dire need of support,” Burgsdorff said, adding that 1.4 million of those living in the strip were refugees served by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.
He called on Arab countries to increase their contributions to UNRWA and for the US to resume its contributions to the organization.