Palestine Staring at $30 Million Funding Shortfall as Covid-19 Vaccination Stalls

Palestine is facing a mounting challenge in its COVID-19 vaccination program, with an acute funding crunch staring at the cash-strapped territorial government. According to a World Bank report released on Monday, Palestine faces a $30 million funding shortfall. The report comes a week after the Arab territory accused Israel of refusing to allow 2,000 coronavirus vaccine doses intended for Gaza health workers.

In the latest report, the Bank suggested that Israel could consider donating surplus doses to the Palestinians. Israel has been at the forefront of global efforts to vaccinate the citizens against the pandemic.

"In order to ensure there is an effective vaccination campaign, Palestinian and Israeli authorities should coordinate in the financing, purchase and distribution of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines," the World Bank said, according to Reuters.

Palestine: West Bank residents say Israel airdropping poison boxes to kill them
A general view picture shows home in the Israeli outpost of Palgey Maim, in the occupied West Bank February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Palestine has reported 115,000 coronavirus cases in the West Bank, while there have been some 53,600 cases in the Hamas-controlled Gaza. While deaths in West Bank stood at 1,400, as many as 537 people died of coronavirus in Gaza, according to the data with the Palestinian Authority.

Israel Asked to Donate Doses

Palestine launched a vaccination program earlier this month, targeting frontline health care workers. PA said it had procured 10,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, besides a fee more thousands of Moderna doss through Israel. Israel had been called upon by to donate some of the doses it has procured with the Palestinians.

The Palestinian Authority has set out plans to cover 20 percent of of Palestinians through the COVAX vaccine-sharing program but the Authority will have to find additional funds to push the vaccine coverage to 60 percent of the population. However, the estimated cost for this is pegged at about $55 million. "A total of about $55 million would be needed to cover 60 percent of the population, of which there is an existing gap of $30 million," the World Bank said, according to Reuters.

Herd immunity
Until and unless a herd immunity is achieved through vaccinations, many people will be vulnerable to COVID-19 (representational image) Pixabay

Vaccination in Occupied Areas

So far, the Authority has been able to procure only 32,000 doses whereas the target population is more than five million. Though rights groups have criticized Israel for allegedly ignoring its duty to vaccinate people in the occupied areas, Tel Aviv has said that as per the Oslo peace accords, Palestine's health ministry holds the responsible for vaccinating people in Gaza and the West Bank.

"From a humanitarian perspective, Israel can consider donating the extra doses it has ordered that it would not be using," the World Bank rort says. Meanwhile, Palestine's health ministry said Tel Aviv has agreed to vaccinate 100,000 Palestinians who regularly cross into Israel for work.