The Consequences of Covid-19 on the Palestinian Society

As part of the Open Wave programme, “A Unified Society amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic Crisis,” REFORM, in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministry of Labor and the Civil Coalition for the Promotion of Civil Peace and the Rule of Law, gathered experts in this field to discuss the social and economic consequences that Covid-19 has on the Palestinian society.

This radio episode was aired on Wednesday, 22.04.2020, and broadcasted on Al-Rabaa Radio Network in Hebron, Raya FM in Ramallah, Hawa Nablus in Nablus, and Radio Al-Shaab in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Minister of Social Development, Mr. Ahmad Majdalani

  • We are still at the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, in which easing the precautionary measures issued by the government does not mean that it is the end of the pandemic; but rather, it is a way to move the economy and reduce the economic and social damages caused by Covid-19.
  • The amount of revenues of the Palestinian National Authority is 70% less than it was before the Covid-19 crisis.
  • As of Wednesday, 4:22 p.m., the number of people registered for the destitute form reached 80,000 people.
  • We expect between now and the end of the month that the number of registrants will reach 100,000. A list of 50,000 names was transferred to the Ministry of Labor in order to check their status and provide them with benefits, especially day laborers who do not have other sources of income.

Chairman of the Executive Committee of Waqfet Ezz Fund, Mr. Talal Nasereddin

  • The ultimate goal of the fund is to collect $30 million over 45 days.
  • We have exceeded the amount of $ 12.7 million so far, as of Wednesday, 22.04.2020. We are aware that this amount is still less than half of the amount that the fund is aiming to raise, but we still have the determination to continue.
  • We finance the Palestinian Ministry of Health by purchasing on their behalf, in accordance to their needs.
  • We will allocate a sum of donations for affected workers, while following a transparent procedure to ensure that those who have received benefits do not receive them again.

Secretary General of the Federation of Palestinian Trade Unions, Mr.Shaher Sa’ad

  • We launched a fund for workers who became unemployed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This fund targets 35,000 day laborers, who are negatively affected by the Covid-19 crisis. The registration process began during this month with certain criteria and requirements, taking into consideration the number of family members and the source of their income. As of Wednesday, 22.04.2020, 55,000 workers have registered. We will continue to communicate with several donors and collect more money in order to cover the largest number of workers possible, including day laborers.

Director General of the Palestinian Fund for Employment and Social Protection, Mr.Mahdi Hamdan

  • The fund is mainly concerned with creating sustainable job opportunities to support small and micro-sized businesses. We emphasize our efforts, as an emergency response, to support these enterprises in order to maintain their presence and preserve the jobs of their workers.
  • We are currently contacting our partners from the lending sector, the Ministry of Labor, lending institutions and our international partners in order to develop the fund’s portfolio.
  • We launched an initiative worth $ 1.5 million to support the damaged enterprises.
  • Through the Fund, we signed an agreement with the Bank of Palestine to launch the “Your Project” program, which contains a portfolio of $50 million to finance, provide liquidity and cover the cost of the loans in order to support small and micro-sized businesses.

Mayor of Salfit Municipality, Mr. Abdel Kareem Al-Zubeidi

  • Salfit municipality launched the “Dignity for our Workers” initiative, which is one of the municipality’s strategic projects, in support of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, within the solar power project for the municipality of Salfit. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Fund has decided to cover electricity costs of the affected workers’ families by transferring credit to the electricity cards, for each family, in the amount of 100 ILS. This initiative may benefit about 800 families.
  • It is worth noting that the value of this grant is 80,000 ILS.

Secretary of the Private Sector Coordinating Council and President of the Palestinian Businessmen Association, Mr. Osama Amr

  • We created the Waqfet Ezz Fund to help families in need and workers affected by the pandemic, through the Ministry of Social Development. So far, we continue to welcome more donations and hope to reach the targeted amount.
  • The private sector cannot withstand for a long time, especially since about 92% of the private sector consists of small and micro-sized enterprises, which employ nearly 4 employees.
  • Amr calls on the private sector to lend a hand to all those who need it.

Economist and University Professor, Mr. Naser Abdelkareem

  • The responsibility for such a crisis rests on three levels: 1) The first level, which is the government and its capabilities, is not able to cover the economic damage that has happened to us. 2) The middle level represented by the private sector through the formation of a board of directors for Waqfet Ezz Fund. 3) The third level, the social capital, in such crisis we bet on preserving the social fabric and its cohesion.
  • If we had more knowledge on crises, then we would be able to improve our economy and distribute the burdens fairly. This crisis could be an opportunity to restructure the distorted Palestinian economy.
  • Palestinian workers inside the Green Line contribute to the Palestinian economy with 800 million shekels a month.

The Palestinian Center for Democracy and Conflict Resolutions- Gaza Strip, Dr. Abulmen’em Al-Tahrawi

  • Civil society organizations in Gaza classified relief assistance that can be provided, to three levels according to available capabilities. The first level: food security, with what we can contribute in the event that there is a comprehensive movement ban. The second level: health security and how to provide health services in light of the difficult conditions, especially in Gaza Strip as a result of the imposition of the blockade. The third level: how to re-align people’s ability to adapt to the current conditions through psychological and social support initiatives.
  • Most of the initiatives launched by civil society organizations in the Gaza Strip are directed towards relief like providing health packages, etc.

Social Activist, Mr. Fajer Atawneh

  • We assisted volunteers from Beit Kahil Emergency Committee to launch a home farming initiative during quarantine.
  • The amount of all the vegetables that the Palestinian kitchen depends on does not exceed one planted pot, so we wanted to develop the idea of ​​cultivating and exploiting abandoned land by launching an initiative to cultivate a fertile and communal land that is threatened to be confiscated. It is 15 dunums, which is enough to benefit from in light of the Covid-19 crisis. It is expected to provide food crops for nearly 400 families from Beit Kahil
  • In the absence of any financial resources, manpower must be used. Many residents of the town showed their willingness to volunteer, which is what made the initiative successful.

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