COVID-19 update

From late March until early May, movements were severely restricted in Israel and Palestine to limit the spread of COVID-19. While LWF continued providing life-saving treatment in the Augusta Victoria Hospital, other activities such as the Village Health Outreach Program and the LWF Vocational Training Program were either suspended or moved online.

From the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, Augusta Victoria Hospital mobilized immediately to respond. The hospital was approved for COVID-19 testing, and a separate COVID-19 treatment center was established on campus. After a total of 14 cases – all asymptomatic - recorded in April, AVH was declared completely COVID 19 free in early May 2020. The overall preparedness and procurement were supported through generous financial and in-kind donations from a number of existing as well as new donors to the hospital, including the European Union.

In the course of May and June, while continuing to monitor the overall situation related to the spread of COVID-19, LWF Jerusalem has resumed operations on a gradual basis and by late June, all activities are operating as normal.

Continued conflict in Israel and Palestine

The work of the LWF Jerusalem Program started in 1948 as a refugee operation and continues, over 70 years later, to serve the Palestinian people. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the ongoing blockade of the Gaza strip, and a series of failed peace processes have led to a protracted protection crisis, affecting all parts of the lives of the approximately 5 million Palestinians.

An estimated 1.3 million out of Gaza’s 2 million Palestinians are UNRWA-registered refugees, whereas, in the West Bank, over 800,000 are registered as refugees. In addition, there are several thousand refugees living in areas known as camps in and around East Jerusalem. Over the course of successive Parliamentary election campaigns, the Israeli leadership has taken steps toward formally annexing parts of the West Bank. LWF and other leading ecumenical organizations have condemned the plans for annexation and called for an end to the occupation. 

As a result of the financial blockade of the West Bank and Gaza in place since 2017, the US administration has considerably weakened the ability of the Palestinian Authority to cover the costs of their health and educational sectors. The Palestinian Health sector faces severe challenges, largely due to political restrictions and insufficient capacity. Lifesaving treatments for cancer patients, in particular children from Gaza, are often jeopardized due to the complicated permit regime.

Continuous impediments on movement and access, and high rates of unemployment, have led to an increase in poverty, as well as deterioration in the quality of education and high dropout rates from schools. In East Jerusalem, as in Area C of the West Bank, a restrictive planning regime applied by Israel makes it extremely difficult for Palestinians to obtain building permits. As a result, the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem has been rapidly declining over the last 100 years, with a particularly sharp decline for the Palestinian Christian presence, from 23,6% of the total population in 1922 to 1,02% in 2020. The lack of affordable housing is one of the main causes of the Christian exodus from the city.

The LWF Jerusalem response: For Hope and a Future in Peace and Justice

As a major Christian presence on the Mount of Olives, LWF promotes justice, peace, and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians through advocacy, humanitarian, and development programs. The LWF Jerusalem Program aligns itself with the UN International Human Rights instruments and International Humanitarian Law, as well as with Security Council resolution 242 (1967), in condemning the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories.

The LWF sees the continuous occupation as a source of human rights violations and an obstacle for peace and justice. Within this period, the LWF Jerusalem Program will reinforce its work on human rights - with particular emphasis on access to health for children from Gaza - gender justice and inclusion, while strengthening equitable access to livelihoods, quality services, protection, and social cohesion.

Through Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), LWF provides life-saving health care for Palestinians from across the West Bank and Gaza. Responding to community needs and in coordination with the Palestinian Ministry of Health, AVH provides quality services through its established Centres of Excellence: Comprehensive Cancer Care, Comprehensive Diabetes Care, Kidney Care, and Dialysis, Skilled Nursing and Long-term Care, and Ear, Nose, Throat and other Specialty Surgery.

The Village Health Outreach Project reaches remote areas throughout the West Bank and facilitates early detection of cancer and diabetes. It will be further strengthened to enhance its follow up of target groups and patients, for improved overall impact.

The construction of the planned Palliative Care Center on campus will start in 2020 and continue in 2021, with estimated completion by 2024.

LWF’s economic empowerment and vocational training program has worked with Palestinian youth and civil society since 1949. The Vocational Training Program, with its campuses in Beit Hanina and in Ramallah, will continue to train and prepare graduates to enter the labor market. Specific emphasis is being put on bridging the gender gap and empower females to increase their labor force participation. This happens among others through reducing physical and social barriers to female participation, introducing new vocations that are market-relevant, and advocating for better work conditions and a conducive environment for women and people with disabilities.

In order to increase access for adequate housing for Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem, LWF will continue pursuing a housing project in Beit Hanina, which, when completed, will provide around 50 apartments for vulnerable Palestinian Christians.

The LWF programs are operational in East Jerusalem, West Bank, and Gaza. The LWF historic campus, built-in 1907 on the Mount of Olives, hosts not only the Augusta Victoria Hospital and other health programs but also the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and other activities of the LWF and its partners. In the coming years, LWF Jerusalem is committed to protecting the green diaconal space at the Mount of Olives.

Updated: 30 June 2020

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Resources

Donors and partners

  • ACT Church of Sweden
  • Brot für die Welt/ Bread for the World
  • Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR)
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Compassion
  • Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI)
  • Danish Church Aid / Norwegian Church Aid (NCA)
  • Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
  • Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM)
  • Juzoor for Health and Social Development
  • Lutheran World Relief
  • Lutherischer Weltbund-Deutsches Nationalkomittee (LWF-GNC)
  • Norway in Palestine
  • Palestinian Medical Relief Society
  • PWRDF
  • UNDP
  • UNRWA
  • USAID
  • Welfare Association

 

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