UN starts Gaza food drops in attempt to prevent coronavirus outbreak

UN starts Gaza food drops in attempt to prevent coronavirus outbreak
© THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

The U.N. began providing food to the homes of impoverished Palestinians Tuesday rather than making people go to crowded distribution centers to pick up essential items in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the Gaza Strip.

In Gaza, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees has contributed essential items such as flour, rice, oil, and canned foods to nearly half of the territory's 2 million people for decades, according to the Associated Press.

The previous system for food access required qualified citizens to line up at crowded distribution centers four times a year to pick up their aid parcels.

ADVERTISEMENT

On Tuesday, the agency began making home deliveries to limit the number of people going into public spaces.

"We assessed that tens of thousands of people will pour into the food distribution centers and this is very dangerous," said Adnan Abu Hasna, the agency's spokesman in Gaza.

The agency delivered around 4,000 food packages on Tuesday, with an estimated 70,000 to be dropped off at people's doors over the new few weeks.

While only ten people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Gaza, international officials warn the virus could quickly spread in the territory due to an underprepared health system.

Other nearby nations are preparing for future outbreaks, with Israeli defense officials announcing plans to convert a missile-production plant into an assembly line for much-needed breathing machines.

Saudi Arabia said it would pay medical fees for anyone infected with COVID-19.

Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, with 141 new deaths reported from authorities on Tuesday. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said there are now 44,606 confirmed cases and a death toll of 2,989.