Australians from every walk of life have rallied behind Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to overwhelm their beleaguered health system.

Leading the initiative is Project Rozana, an international not-for-profit charity that started in Australia in 2016 to build the Palestinian health system by leveraging Israel’s medical expertise.  It has been endorsed by the Palestinian Authority, the governments of Israel and Australia, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union.

Project Rozana responded to an urgent request from the Palestinian Authority for help in getting their hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) COVID-19 ready, by mounting a global fundraising campaign.  Central to the request is for hospital-grade invasive life-support ventilators, which are in desperately short supply in Palestinian hospitals.

The focus of the campaign is two-fold:  to raise funds to purchase ventilators and associated equipment necessary to outfit four dedicated COVID-19 ICUs in the West Bank, and the transfer of key treatment learnings from the Israeli COVID ICUs to the Palestinian medical teams .

Project Rozana is raising $1.2 million to fund the purchase of the full suite of needed equipment for these dedicated ICU’s including extremely hard to find ICU invasive ventilators. These have been secured and delivered through Australian manufacturer, ResMed.

PA Foreign Minister, Dr Riad al-Malki, said “We are facing a global enemy that knows no boundaries and challenges us in ways that we haven’t been challenged before.”

The speed of the COVID-19 transmission is frightening and in the last 14 days it has hit many Palestinian communities, with its epicentre in the Hebron region of the West Bank.

According to figures released by WHO, there are now more than 3,3 00 infections and 11 deaths across the West Bank and Gaza.  Significantly, the majority of these are women and the largest group is the 18 to 29 age range.

Project Rozana founder and Chair of its international board, Ron Finkel AM, described the situation as alarming.  He said the dramatic surge in cases will hit Palestinians hard in the coming weeks and the lack of ICU facilities will result in needless suffering and death.

“If we don’t act now to fund this critical need, the health impact on Palestinian society will be unprecedented,” he said.  “Although Australia is a world away from Palestine, we have become a key partner with the PA in addressing the need for ICU-enabled ventilators.”

Mr Finkel said that, this is a moment for Australians to shine, and to demonstrate that it punches above its weight when it comes to helping Palestinians and Israelis bridge the divide between them through healthcare.

He urged Australians to contribute immediately to its COVID-19 Palestinian Emergency Ventilator Appeal (mycause.com.au/events/projectrozana)

“It’s a wonderful start,” Mr Finkel said, “but additional ventilators and related equipment  will make the difference to a community reeling under the pressure of the coronavirus.

To support Project Rozana’s COVID-19 Palestinian Emergency Ventilator Appeal, please give generously through mycause.com.au/events/projectrozana