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Principal Investigator: Dr Jason Hart (University of Bath)

Research Snapshot: COVID-19 in Gaza

This Research Snapshot summarises findings from a study in refugee camps in Gaza, exploring how communities responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impacts of public health measures designed to mitigate infection spread. The study also examined access to health services and protection concerns.

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What did the study set out to achieve?

This research sought to address the lack of evidence surrounding how refugee camp communities responded to public health directives established in response to COVID-19 in Gaza. The project explored the consequences of a ‘stay at home’ policy, among others, in this context of densely overcrowded communities that are under threat of conflict-related violence, where water is scarce, and where access to protective equipment such as masks very limited. To the best of the research team’s knowledge, this was the first study of the social and behavioural aspects of COVID-19 in refugee camps in the Middle East.

The project was conceptualised with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as the main health, education and sanitation service provider in the camps.

Dr Caitlin Procter

Lead Researcher (European University Institute)

"It is critical to understand how communities living in protracted displacement are managing COVID-19, particularly given that the pandemic is compounded in this context by the on-going Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip. This research will enable community perspectives surrounding the social and political life of COVID-19 to be at the core of the evolving humanitarian response to the crisis."

What were the key findings?

  1. Sources of information about the pandemic
    • Participants have good knowledge of the virus, its symptoms, modes of transmission and preventative measures.
    • They prefer to use social media to follow developments related to the pandemic in Gaza
  2. Accessing health care
    • Fear of becoming infected with COVID-19 has negatively affected people’s access to healthcare.
  3. Implications of the official response
    • Widespread concern exists about livelihoods and living costs due to COVID-19 measures. For this reason, many people felt unable to observe lockdown and distancing measures.
    • An increase in both depression and sexual and gender-based violence was reported.
  4. Reactions to public health measures
    • A majority of respondents called for stricter measures to fight the pandemic, while also justifying the need for people in Gaza to break the existing regulations in order to cope with economic insecurity.
    • Many participants found public health measures confusing and sometimes contradictory.

What does this mean for policymakers and practitioners?

The research findings led the team to make the following recommendations:

  • End the blockade and work to ensure that all duty bearers meet their obligations under international law.
  • Support immediate healthcare and humanitarian response and long-term sustainable development in Gaza.
  • Increase the dissemination of information on service provision related to sexual & gender-based violence.
  • Understand COVID-19 vulnerability in relation to socio-economic status.
  • Increase use of social media in communicating public health measures and available avenues of support for communities.
  • Engage with community-based networks.
  • Support the monitoring of human rights violations during the pandemic.

Next Steps

The findings of this research are directly informing the evolving COVID-19 response in Palestinian refugee camps. The following outputs will be produced to support this:

  • A findings report to be shared with relevant agencies working in Gaza
  • Communication flyers/posters in Arabic with key public health and protection messaging
  • A series of public health messages to be disseminated via sms beneficiary lists
  • An indicator tool for monitoring select Protection issues
  • At least one peer-review journal article co-authored by the core research team

Related Resources

Report COVID-19

COVID-19 in Gaza: Community Perspectives on the Pandemic

Research Snapshot COVID-19

Research Snapshot: COVID-19 in Gaza

Latest Updates

Community engagement in Gaza amidst and about COVID-19

Apr 2021

Dr Mohammed Alruzzi a Research Associate at the University of Bath reflects on the dual challenge of COVID-19 and the blockade in accessing research participants in Gaza. Through engaging local community organisations, and creative use of WhatsApp, Skype, telephone calls and diary writing the community were successfully engaged in this research.

A man sprays disinfectant as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19 in the streets of the Al Shatti refugee camp in Gaza. Photo credit: Mohammed Zaanoun, independent Palestinian photo journalist based in Gaza. Instagram @m.z.gaza
Soup distribution during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in Gaza City in April 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo credit: Mohammed Zaanoun, independent Palestinian photo journalist based in Gaza. Instagram @m.z.gaza

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