The COVID-19 pandemic has led to large-scale emergencies across the globe, representing not only a global public health crisis, but also a humanitarian and development crisis. Beyond the immediate impact on people’s lives, health systems and economies, the pandemic threatens to profoundly deepen inequalities and reverse progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.
Given the scale and scope of the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, additional investments need to be made to complement the UN’s health and humanitarian response. Working under the convening power of the Resident Coordinator’s office, UNDP has been designated the technical lead in the UN socio-economic response, and is supporting the delivery of a strong UN Response.
COVID-19 in the State of Palestine
Already suffering from protracted conflict, restricted access to national resources, geographic fragmentation and intra-Palestinian divide, and decades of occupation, the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis on the State of Palestine will deepen vulnerabilities and drive additional households into poverty, especially those surviving on income in informal sector. The deteriorating fiscal sustainability will have a serious impact on the ability to ensure social safety networks are sustained, including cash transfers to vulnerable households and the salaries and pensions of government workers, including front-line health workers. More than 70 percent of households in Gaza, and 10 percent of households in the West Bank, depend on cash and in-kind assistance, and 21 percent of the Palestinian labour force works in the public sector, including 43 percent of employed women. The Palestinian economy is expected to incur losses of about US$2.5 billion three months into the COVID-19 pandemic. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics estimates that a one-month shutdown would lead to a decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 1.2 percent compared to 2019, while a three-month shutdown and a six-month shutdown would lead to contractions of 5.1 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively. Thus, it is predicted that the GDP will decline by 14 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.
There is also a gender dimension for the crisis. Because of pre-existing gender-based inequalities, the crisis creates risks to further exclude and discriminate. Women and youth will likely experience more difficulty finding new jobs or entrepreneurship opportunities for their economic recovery, not to mention that women are increasingly shouldering unpaid care work, including child care, caring for the sick and home schooling. This would also contribute to the decline in women’s participation in the labour force and market.