Gaza women children
Displaced Palestinian children, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, sit at a tent camp, amid the ongoing Israeli bombing, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip Image Credit: Reuters

The plight of women in Gaza demands the world’s immediate and undivided attention. As the world commemorated International Women’s Day last week, it’s imperative to shed light on the dire circumstances faced by Palestinian women in the midst of the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The situation in Gaza is not just another statistic in the annals of conflict; it’s a devastating humanitarian crisis that requires urgent intervention and global solidarity.

War disproportionately affects women, exacerbating gender inequality in myriad ways. They face heightened risks of violence, including sexual assault and exploitation, amid the chaos of conflict. The destruction of infrastructure and displacement caused by war disproportionately impacts women, who often struggle to access essential services like health care and education.

Moreover, traditional gender roles become more rigid during wartime, limiting women’s autonomy and economic independence. The loss of male family members places additional burdens on women, who may become sole providers while coping with grief and trauma.

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The breakdown of social structures leaves women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Thus, addressing the plight of women in conflict zones like Gaza is paramount to advancing gender equality globally.

Reports from Gaza paint a harrowing picture of the impact of the Israel-Gaza conflict on women. Since the war’s onset nearly five months ago, more than 9,000 Palestinian women have lost their lives at the hands of Israeli forces. These figures likely underestimate the true toll, with many more feared dead under the rubble.

Injuries also disproportionately affect women, with 75 per cent of the total number of injured individuals being females. Women and children account for 70 per cent of the 7,000 missing persons, while two million people have been forced to flee their homes, with half of them being females.

Women bear the brunt of the conflict, with an average of 63 women killed daily, including 37 mothers, leaving families devastated. The looming threat of famine exacerbates the humanitarian crisis, with acute food insecurity affecting Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million people.

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Devastating impact

A rapid assessment by UN Women revealed that 84% of women reported their families consuming half or less food than before the war, with mothers sacrificing their meals to feed their children. Access to food has become increasingly difficult, forcing many women to scavenge for sustenance under rubble or in dumpsters. The urgent need for a humanitarian ceasefire to prevent further loss of life and ensure the delivery of essential aid into Gaza cannot be overstated.

The devastating impact of Israeli military actions on Palestinian women in Gaza is undeniable. Not only more than 9,000 Palestinian women have been killed, but also 60,000 pregnant women suffering from malnutrition and inadequate health care.

The deteriorating water and sanitation conditions have reached a terrible state, with up to 81 per cent of households lacking access to safe water. Challenges persist in delivering humanitarian aid, with limited truck entries due to security issues at border crossings. The death toll among UNRWA staff has reached 162.

Over 1.7 million people, representing over 75 per cent of the population, have been displaced, with many forced to move multiple times in search of safety.

The Israeli blockade on essential resources like food, water, fuel, and medicines has led to widespread suffering among Palestinians. Nearly the entire population of Gaza faces crisis levels of food insecurity, marking the highest share of acute food insecurity ever recorded for any area. The health care system has collapsed, with attacks on hospitals leaving many without access to medical treatment. Insecurity Insight has documented numerous instances of violence against health care facilities and workers.

The lack of access to safe water and sanitation, coupled with overcrowded living conditions for 1.7 million displaced individuals, raises concerns about potential infectious disease outbreaks like cholera and typhoid. Israel’s restrictions on aid entering Gaza have further exacerbated the situation, with far less aid reaching the region than needed.

The International Court of Justice has issued an interim ruling urging Israel to cease genocidal acts and ensure humanitarian aid to Gaza civilians. Yet, the silence of the international community is deafening.

The plea for immediate action to halt Israeli aggression and genocide extends to United Nations intervention and international women’s organisations mobilising efforts. The urgency of the situation demands a collective response to prevent further loss of life and alleviate the suffering of Palestinian women and their families.

Immense hardships

It’s crucial to recognise that the plight of women in Gaza is not an isolated issue but a symptom of broader systemic injustices. The ongoing conflict perpetuates cycles of violence and oppression, undermining decades of progress in gender equality globally. Palestinian women and girls navigate daily existence in a hostile environment where violence and destruction are ever-present threats.

Despite the immense hardships they endure, they exhibit remarkable resilience and bravery. Their voices must be amplified, their struggles recognised, and their rights advocated for. The call for solidarity with Palestinian women transcends borders and ideologies. It’s a call for true justice and humanity in the face of unimaginable suffering.

As the world reflects on International Women’s Day, let us not forget the women of Gaza who continue to endure the horrors of conflict. Their plight should serve as a clarion call for action, reminding us of our collective responsibility to stand in solidarity with those who bear the heaviest burdens of war.

The time for silence and inaction is over. It’s time to prioritise the plight of women in Gaza and work towards a just and lasting peace for all.