Underlying conditions

A health worker and armed Palestinians gather under the portrait of their late leader Yasser Arafat at the Wavel Palestinian refugee camp (also known as the Jalil camp) in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley, on April 24, 2020, after cases of infection by the novel coronavirus were detected there. (photo: AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinians in camps have resorted to be the frontline as community-based health workers and demonstrate the ingenuity and steadfastness that has kept Palestinian dreams for a better future alive.

By Bram Wispelwey & Amaya Al-Orzza | London Review of Books |  Apr 18, 2020

The Israeli government and Palestinian security services announced that they would co-operate for the pandemic, but the actions on the ground tell a different story.

At nearly 18 per cent officially, and probably higher, the prevalence of diabetes among Palestinian refugees in the West Bank is one of the highest in the world. The official rate in Gaza is 16 per cent. Among adult citizens of Israel, it’s 7.2 per cent. The disease suppresses the immune system, among other complications, and can spiral dangerously out of control when combined with an infection, such as the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Diabetic patients with Covid-19 in China had a 1 in 14 chance of dying, more than triple that of the general population.

Decades of living in overcrowded refugee camps and a rapid transition to cheap and readily available high calorie foods, in part a result of the neoliberal economic changes that came with the Oslo Accords, have led to an explosive increase in obesity and diabetes among Palestinians. As in other parts of the world, the prevalence of the disease is linked to land dispossession, structural violence, colonial domination and oppression. In the United States, diabetes is nearly twice as common in the Indigenous and African American populations as it is among non-Hispanic whites. Other examples from around the world confirm the connection between historical oppression and chronic diseases.

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