COVID-19 in Israel's Arab Society: Current Status and Emerge...

COVID-19 in Israel's Arab Society: Current Status and Emergency Response Priorities

April 29, 2020

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COVID-19 in Israel's Arab Society: Current Status and Emergency Response Priorities

April 2020

On March 23, the Task Force issued an update on the health and economic risks specific to Arab society due to its low socio-economic status, poor public health infrastructure, population density and weak municipalities. Among them, misalignment of national policies with Arab society’s realities and needs contributed to delays in crisis response measures such as information in Arabic and testing sites in Arab communities, among others.

In the weeks since, significant steps have been taken to address the immediate gaps, promote compliance with prevention guidelines, and to implement more effective emergency response measures in Arab society. As a result, despite recent local outbreaks in several communities, there has thus far been relatively limited spread in Arab society. The curve is rising in Arab society and the risk of additional spread is now high—especially with the month of Ramadan (begun April 24th) raising concerns about maintaining social distance. This risk is further intensified now that Israeli society in general is already looking at easing restrictions while in Arab society the peak has not yet been reached.

Along with the health risks, the economic shutdown intensifies existing social and economic vulnerabilities. Arab citizens are already Israel’s poorest demographic, with three times the poverty rates of non-Haredi Jews. New job losses, lower municipal revenue streams, and limited local services are at the heart of immediate welfare needs and recovery concerns. Arab municipalities and the Arab civil sector are central implementers of emergency and welfare provisions, yet are deeply constrained by current uncertainties, reduced revenues and staffing.

This update aims to briefly report on the current impact of the crisis on Arab citizens and provide an overview of efforts to structure and implement the national and local emergency response for Arab communities. It is beyond the scope of this report to detail all the unique risks, gaps and challenges in Arab society created by this crisis, nor all actors, projects and emergency initiatives underway. Rather, it focuses on issues of alignment with national state authorities, identifies priority areas on the ground, and provides examples of activities for each.

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