HAIFA, Thursday, January 14, 2021 (WAFA) - Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel sent an urgent letter on 7 January to Israeli health officials demanding that they establish COVID-19 vaccine stations for the residents of two Palestinian areas of Jerusalem for which Israeli authorities hold responsibility.
The neighborhoods of Kufr Aqab and the Shufat refugee camp both were illegally annexed and fall within the boundaries of Israel’s Jerusalem municipality, but are located behind Israel’s separation wall.
Israel has not established any COVID-19 vaccination stations to serve the 150,000 residents of Shufat refugee camp, Kufr Aqab, and the surrounding areas.
In a letter addressed to senior figures in the Israeli Health Ministry and a number of Israeli health maintenance organizations (HMOs) charged with administering the COVID-19 vaccines to the public, Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara called on Israeli health authorities to take immediate action to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for the residents of these two neighborhoods hard hit during the pandemic.
The two neighborhoods suffer from extremely high rates of overcrowding and living conditions conducive to facilitating the spread of the virus. Likewise, both areas suffer from poor infrastructure. In Kufr Aqab, for example, there is no regular water supply; water is a need essential to basic hygiene and to slowing the spread of infection.
The location of both neighborhoods beyond Israel’s separation wall makes it extremely difficult for residents to travel to vaccination centers that have been established inside Jerusalem. Such a journey – which can typically take up to two hours in each direction, involves passing through strictly-controlled Israeli military checkpoints and, for many, travel via crowded public transportation – also increases the risk of infection.
Palestinian women, children, and the elderly are particularly harmed by this series of barriers between Kufr Aqab and Shufat and vaccination centers in Jerusalem.
In addition, Israel tightened its COVID-19 lockdown restrictions for at least two weeks starting last Thursday at midnight, further blocking Palestinian access to Jerusalem.
Given the lack of access to Israeli-administered COVID-19 tests in these two neighborhoods over the past year, Palestinian residents have suffered from a skyrocketing rate of infection and morbidity.
Israel is violating the right to health of Palestinian residents of Jerusalem by failing to provide adequate access to COVID-19 vaccines, said Adalah.