‘Made-in-Gaza’ device fights coronavirus spread

GAZA CITY, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES (AFP) – Entering a Gaza City restaurant, customers are welcomed by a multi-tasking disinfection machine designed by a Palestinian businesswoman to curb the spread of the coronavirus in the crisis-hit enclave.

Spraying hand sanitiser while taking the person’s temperature, the two-metre high device offers an all-in-one disinfection experience.

If the body temperature is too high, a red signal will light up. Otherwise the restaurant door opens automatically to allow the customer in.

“In Gaza, we have basic devices imported from abroad to measure temperatures, and others to disinfect, but our devices combine multiple technologies in one,” creator Heba al-Hindi told AFP.

The densely populated Palestinian coastal enclave, under an Israeli-enforced blockade since 2007, was initially largely spared by COVID-19 when the pandemic broke out.

Palestinian entrepreneur Heba al-Hindi demonstrates a locally designed and manufactured smart sterilisation device in Gaza City. PHOTO: AFP

But dire economic conditions, a poor healthcare system and chronic electricity shortages, partly caused by the blockade, made Gaza especially vulnerable to the virus.

Confirmed infections in the enclave have topped 5,440 with 31 deaths.

“When COVID-19 reached the Gaza Strip, I told myself I had to find a way to fight its spread,” said Hindi.

“Then came the idea of creating a sanitiser and I designed these smart machines.”

The 37-year-old mathematics graduate heads Innovation Makers, a company that has created eight anti-COVID products, including a blue and yellow robot-like machine to appeal to children.

She said the project makes money but that “our focus is not on the profit”.

“We’re focussing on a Palestinian product and a Palestinian invention from within the siege in the Gaza Strip, to show this invention to the world.”

Innovation Makers has sold dozens of machines to supermarkets, bakeries and restaurants, for between USD550 and USD1,500 depending on the technology used.

The products have been patented by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Economy Ministry, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The company finds spare parts for the devices on the local market but is barred by Israel from exporting the ‘Made in Gaza’ creations, slowing down Hindi’s ambitions.

Management at the Taboun restaurant is delighted with the disinfecting machines they bought.

“The device is remarkable,” said Hospitality Manager at the Gaza eatery Matar Matar, adding that he found out about it on social media.

Customers are happy to see that “something new is being developed in Gaza,” he said.