DSPR: Inside Look – Sept. 2021

DSPR: Inside Look – Sept. 2021

The Department of Service for Palestinian Refugees (DSPR) of the Middle East Council of Churches sends greetings from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. At this time we commemorate the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem. Last week, in a ceremonial procession, an icon of her was carried from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to her tomb in the Gethsemane Valley at the bottom of Mount Olives. , where she is said to have lain until her Assumption. It will now lie there until Sunday, September 5th and will then be carried back to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

Corona has unfortunately come back strong in Palestine and Israel. We pray for an end to the pandemic and health for all. We are also following the situation around Afghanistan with concern. And Lebanon is sinking into chaos, a sign of the final disintegration of society and state in Lebanon.

The general situation in Lebanon is getting more and more difficult and especially in the following aspects: The economic and financial crisis in parallel to COVID-19 pandemic and a political instability with a recent explosion in Akkar that cost the lives of many civilians and rendered many injured. The shortage in fuel putting the country and hospitals at risk of closing their doors with many children and elderly at risk of losing their lives due to fuel shortage with AUBMC appealing urgently for aid. The Lebanese pound has lost almost 80% from its value, which severally affected the ability of the Lebanese people to access basic goods, food and healthcare. Electricity blackouts lasting more than 20 hours per day, with the lack of fuel for generators, leading to the permanent closure of some hospitals, pharmacies, bakeries, restaurants and multiple enterprises, with a huge amount of daily poisoning accidents due to the absence of appropriate cooling for the meat and dairy products, resulting from the absence of electricity.   In parallel, a petrol shortage across Lebanon has resulted in long humiliating queues in front of the stations, with high tensions and daily fights among angry customers. The situation is pushing more and more the people to migrate: doctors, nurses, engineers and many skilled workers are leaving in droves. Despite this entire black situation, DSPR in Lebanon is still ongoing with the vocational programs and trainings in the different centers across Lebanon assisting the most vulnerable Communities.

In the West Bank, DSPR continued with its work in field activities and follow up on projects already accomplished, such as the agricultural road in the Northern West Bank serving a number of villages and hundreds of farmers. The overall economic situation in Jerusalem and the West Bank is precarious. Pilgrimages and tourism continue at a stalemate due to Covid19 situation. Both Bethlehem and Jerusalem, the twins cities of religious attraction, are suffering and the livelihoods of thousands of their population are adversely affected by this situation. With the start of the new school year, thousands of Palestinian families have difficulty finding the needed resources to buy books and other school paraphernalia, not to speak of the high fees in private Christian schools. The Palestinian Authority is operating under very difficult financial situation with the public debt reaching over US$3.7 billion in April 2021. The Delta variant which is causing a surge in hospitalized cases is taxing the Palestinian health system. The United States has recently contributed, through COVAX, half-a-million Pfizer vaccine shots to the benefit of Palestinians. The political and human rights situation needs continuing monitoring as recent developments both in the Palestinian Territory and in Israel’s dealing with Palestinians point to serious and alarming human rights violations.

The impact of Covid-19 on livelihoods and income was harsh, a recently conducted study by WHO shows that only 55% of households in Gaza were able to buy essential food items in last 7 days. Moreover, 40% of young people in Gaza noted that they had experienced hunger in the past month. Also, access to health services has been further restricted; 23% of the respondents in noted that they had not been able to see a healthcare provider because of the pandemic. At the psycho-social front, responses show an increase in depression rates (9.3%) and 10% of adolescents in Gaza are experiencing moderate-to-severe anxiety. Moreover, the pandemic contributed to an increase in the physical and emotional violence against young people in Gaza.  In light of Gaza’s vulnerability, authorities and healthcare and humanitarian workers have focused their efforts on prevention. For several months, these efforts have spared Gaza the worst of the coronavirus. However, Gazans not only face grave and direct risks resulting from further exposure to COVID-19, but from the virus’ economic shocks that could dramatically impact their already limited access to critical supplies and services. Eleven days of Israeli bombardment on the besieged enclave left 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, dead. Nearly 2,000 have been injured. Homes, offices and hospitals have been destroyed.

In Gaza, rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which features disrupted sleep, feeling permanently on edge and easily startled, flashbacks and nightmares of the trauma and emotional numbing – are incredibly high. A 2017 study found 37 percent of the adults living on the Strip qualify for the diagnosis. As is often the case in these situations, children suffer the most in Palestine. A study conducted in 2020, before the latest conflict, found that 53.5 per cent of children in Gaza were suffering from PTSD. Nearly 90 percent had experienced personal trauma.

Reducing waiting time to the minimum, trying to treat each client as quick as possible, meanwhile maintain quality and safety.  Changing the flow of patients in the clinics to reduce the possibilities of infection transmission.  For example, beneficiaries with no medical conditions should follow a track that is different from the sick people.  Using the booking system, any patient need medical consultation should book before going to the clinic Using the triage system and maintain the social distancing of patients. Provide E- health and psycho-social counseling through free hotlines services. Rescheduled the clinics activities in the way that beneficiaries with no medical conditions should follow a track that is different from the sick people. DSPR heath staff practiced their work providing health services and treatment for sick people with severe precautions and keep using of safe work practices including wearing face mask, gloves, face shield, and disposable gowns, infection prevention control guidelines and hygiene practices also carried out, to protect their selves and other people contact them. For TVET program, resumed to run all TVET departments as usual with compliance with precautions and full commitment to preventive measures and procedures including i.e., keeping distances between students (1.5 m at least), wearing masks and using sterilization and hygienic materials.

IN TERMS OF LAST ESCALATION ON GAZA MAY 2021 DSPR RESPONSES WERE DSPR clinics received a huge number of beneficiaries who seek medical services and provided health services to them. DSPR conducted rapid need assessment for people affected by last escalation on Gaza including house damages.  Also, DSPR conducted rapid need assessment to Identifying family needs and priorities, which include: Food and Non-food items, to provide Vouchers for affected families, this project started in August, and will support 500 families from DSPR catchments areas, each family will receive voucher of $140 to purchase the needed food, and non-food items, this project supported by CCP-Japan.   DSPR psycho-social counselor contacted the beneficiaries and provide E-counselling in terms of psycho-social support, in addition to giving appointment to psycho-social beneficiaries. DSPR Started a new emergency project supported by Act for peace targeted children, women, and adolescents attending DSPR clinics,and TVET students, the aim of this project is to promote psycho-social status of different vulnerable and traumatized beneficiaries after the last escalation on Gaza. Started anew psycho-social support project for TVET students supported by MCC, this for six months. Provide cash relief for vulnerable families of TVET students, $100 for each family, supported by Amos for 100 families of TVET students, and by MCC for 80 families.

We are pleased to announce the launch of several new DSPR programs in Jordan in August: “ Right to Health is for all” supported by ACT Church of Sweden and local Swedish Radio Station that will provide health services to Palestinian and Syrian refugees at Madaba refugee camp south of Jordan.  In August, DSPR Jordan will start a program supported by the German Embassy in Jordan to rehabilitate the Mother and Child Clinic at Madaba refugee camp.  DSPR Jordan is working with its partner; ACT for peace on new program titled; “Graduation out of Poverty” for the coming 3 years that will target Syrian refugees and their host communities. this program focuses on livelihoods, while integrating refugee empowerment and protection, in order to enhance the self-reliance and living conditions of Syrian refugees, and prospects for temporary local integration.

In Nazareth last week, the team had a good workshop with Sami, the program manager from Central Office, to strategize and strengthen the team. There was a good exchange and new ideas. 

After a supposed victory over the pandemic, the infection figures have been rising rapidly again in recent weeks and days. In the last few days, the daily number of new infections has again exceeded 6,000. New restrictions are being considered and introduced again. The restrictions against Palestinians on the Israeli side have also been increased again. There are more and more demolishing orders, which mean that Palestinian houses have to be demolished due to a lack of building permits. The Israeli authorities demolished, seized or forced people to demolish 57 Palestinian-owned structures across the West Bank due to lack of Israeli-issued building permits, displacing 97 people, including 67 children, and affecting the livelihoods of 240 other people.