UN begins home aid deliveries to slow coronavirus in Gaza

UN expects to make about 70,000 home aid deliveries in next three weeks

Palestinian workers distribute food supplies from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to a house in the Sheikh Redwan neighborhood of Gaza City, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The United Nations has resumed food deliveries to thousands of impoverished families in the Gaza Strip after a three-week delay caused by fears of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

A UN aid agency has started delivering aid to Palestinians in densely packed Gaza to try to prevent a coronavirus outbreak from spreading.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees began home deliveries for the first time so residents would not need to go to the crowded distribution centre where they would normally pick up supplies.

The agency supplies essentials such as flour, rice, oil and canned foods to about half of the territory’s 2 million people.

About 4,000 deliveries were made on Tuesday, with an estimated 70,000 more to be made over the next three weeks, said Adnan Abu Hasna, the agency’s spokesman in Gaza.

A Palestinian worker carries sacks of flour distributed by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for poor refugee families, at the Sheikh Redwan neighborhood of Gaza City, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. The United Nations has resumed food deliveries to thousands of impoverished families in the Gaza Strip after a three-week delay caused by fears of the coronavirus. UNRWA, provides staples like flour, rice, oil and canned foods to roughly half of Gaza’s 2 million people. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Only 10 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Gaza, whose borders have been largely sealed off by Israel and Egypt.

'Tens of thousands' of deliveries

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International officials fear the virus could quickly spread and overwhelm Gaza’s health system, AFP reported.

“We assessed that tens of thousands of people will pour into the food distribution centres and this is very dangerous,” Mr Abu Hasna said.

Under the old system, which was in place for decades, people lined up at crowded distribution centres four times a year to pick up aid parcels.

But now drivers on three-wheel motorcycles dropped off the food, calling people out of their homes, confirming their identities and leaving the bags outside.

The agency instructed people to stay 2 metres from the delivery men to minimise the risk of infection.

“The old mechanism causes crowding and touching that help the virus spread,” said Manal Ziara, a resident of Shati refugee camp in west Gaza City.

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