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Provide Necessary Humanitarian Assistance to Palestinians Battling COVID-19 Outbreak

Dear Congressman/Senator,

I am urgently writing to request that you call on the Trump administration to take immediate steps to help the Palestinians deal with the effects of the coronavirus. Please ask the State Department to immediately reinstate assistance to Palestinian civilians which was already appropriated by Congress in FY 2020. Last week a few members of the House (led by Reps. Chellie Pingree and David Price) and the Senate (led by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Chris Van Hollen) sent a letter to Secretary Pompeo calling for the reinstatement of assistance. Please visit https://uspalestiniancouncil.org/news/congress-covid-19-outbreak to view the letter.

As of March 29, 2020 there have been 109 coronavirus cases reported in the West Bank and Gaza strip. One death from the virus was reported as well. However, with only 120 ventilators (many of which already being used for patients suffering from a range of other medical problems), the Palestinian health system will not be able to handle a large number of patients afflicted with the virus. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, so practicing social distaining is extremely hard considering the severe lack of space for people to distance themselves from each other. As a result, the virus can spread very quickly there. In addition, Gaza’s health system has been greatly weakened and seriously compromised by a tight Israeli blockade and Egyptian border restrictions that have been in place for over 10 years.

The demands of the pandemic threaten to further overwhelm the already-stretched health system in Gaza. Of the 144 health clinics operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), 22 provide essential health services to 70 percent of Gazans. Even before the pandemic, UNRWA was already confronting the possibility of having to reduce its services due to the devastating impact of U.S. funding cuts, and has recently appealed to donor states for an additional $14 million to address many immediate needs created by the pandemic.

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Appropriations Act included $75 million for humanitarian and development assistance for the Palestinian people. Despite that appropriation, and in the face of a COVID-19 outbreak in the West Bank and Gaza, the Administration has not reconsidered its policy of ceasing all bilateral assistance to the Palestinians and all contributions to UNRWA. Please call on the Administration to immediately reconsider its policy and help the Palestinians fight COVID-19.

Sincerely,

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