By Lisa Zengarini
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has called on Israel to ensure equitable access to Coronavirus vaccines for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. In a statement released during the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council held from 22 February through 23 March, almost entirely in a virtual format, the Council expresses grave concern about inadequate COVID-19 vaccine for people in the West Bank and Gaza, as compared to the Israeli citizens, the 44.7% of whom have now been fully vaccinated, including people living in illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Coronavirus cases in the Occupied Territories
The statement points out that in the Occupied Territories there have been almost 210,000 confirmed Coronavirus cases and over 2,200 deaths, and that “the population density and high levels of poverty exacerbate infections despite the imposition of curfews and closures”. However, the on-going military occupation “has resulted in a situation in which the Palestinian authorities do not have adequate means to purchase and administer vaccines or to address the impact of Covid-19”, the statement continues.
Israel has committed to provide a total of 5,000 vaccine doses to the Palestinian Authority, and to vaccinate the estimated 100,000 Palestinians who work in Israel or in the settlements. “But the disparity remains stark”, the Wcc points out, reminding that under international humanitarian and human rights law “the responsibility for ensuring access to vaccines in occupied territory rests with the occupying power”. The Council therefore calls on Israel “to fulfil its obligations under international law and to ensure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines” in the Occupied Territories.