Gaza has suffered the longest, most barbaric, lockdown in the world - I know, because I lived through three years of it
While the rest of the world may rightly moan about the ways in which the miserable Covid-induced lockdowns have affected our lives, spare a thought for the 2 million Palestinians imprisoned in Israel's brutal and illegal blockade.
"We're all Palestinians now," some say, as people around the world are under Covid-19 lockdown and rendered jobless. While the reference is apt, Palestinians in Gaza have been under the most severe lockdown in the world for 14 long years.
As 2021 has gone on, it has become increasingly clear that lockdowns are affecting people around the world in painful and deadly ways beyond the already awful effects of slashed incomes and isolation.
So imagine life where the lockdown isn't for a period of weeks or months, but throughout the year, every year, with no end in sight, making life utterly unlivable.
That is life in the Gaza Strip, which although only 40 km long and 365 square km in size, is appropriately dubbed the world's largest open-air prison.
And while there is absolutely no just reason for Israel's imprisonment of two million people, it continues, year after year, in violation of Israel's legal obligations under international law, as the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) notes.
It is collective punishment. As the UN reminded: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited."Blockade brutality
Since 2012, the UN has warned that Gaza would become "unlivable" by 2020.
It was already unlivable when I first set foot in Gaza in November 2008. From then until March 2013, I lived a cumulative three years (and two wars) there, the latter half of that time in the humble home of a Palestinian family in central Gaza.
The power was out for 20-22 hours daily, mostly a result of the 2006 Israeli bombing of Gaza's power plant, which was never fully reconstructed, thanks to the blockade that prevents the import of much-needed materials.
Picture a functioning hospital with dialysis machines, working ICUs, etc. Now imagine it with limited or no electricity, for 14 years, and after three wars. That's Gaza.
And every year, due to the Israeli restrictions on imports, Gaza has less than a month's supply of essential medicines (48 percent in 2019; 42 percent in January 2021). In December 2019, for example, 58 percent of chemotherapy drugs and 41 percent of kidney dialysis medicines were at zero stock.
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