The immediate and foreseen impacts of the pandemic dramatically exacerbate the profound challenges resulting from the dire political situation the State of Palestine is facing. The measures accompanying its spread go far beyond the health sector. Daily waged workers, despite the government’s ban, continued to move to secure sustenance for their families. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), constituting 99 percent of businesses in the State of Palestine, may not sustain the closure for a prolonged period of two to three months. This would detrimentally affect not only owners of these businesses, but the already fragile Palestinian economy as a whole. Some of those who now cannot work will get their jobs back, others will not. Youth unemployment in the State of Palestine pre-outbreak was 45 percent, and the fear of this figure rising exponentially is real.
Massive gaps have been faced in collecting credible real-time data pertaining to the effects of COVID-19 on businesses, workers, and the economy in general. The Accelerator Lab will explore behavioural insights of workers to fill some of the information and perception gaps. This will support the drafting of response plans in coordination with ILO and the Ministry of Labour.
UNDP will also be launching a crowdfunding campaign that supports small businesses to survive the crisis. The campaign will aim to support 33 small businesses by providing them with direct cash support for two months to subsidize their rent, utility bills, and salaries for their workers. Matching grants will be sought from local private sector through coordination with the Chambers of Commerce. The campaign will be scaled up to reach more SMEs and more sizable survival grants.
Faced with this unforeseen pandemic, the overall challenge we are all facing is to bring it all together: not enough data around the cases, the readiness of the health system to accommodate the recent surge, the socio-economic impact of the lockdown, and making strict plans seems like a futile exercise as the effects of the outbreak globally are still shaping up.