New Delhi, Jan 20 : The raging war in Gaza is impacting women and girls at unprecedented levels with loss of life and catastrophic levels of humanitarian needs.
This was the main conclusion of the “Gender Alert: The Gendered Impact of the Crisis in Gaza” issued by UN Women.
At least 24,620 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, about 16,000 of whom were women or children.
The number of people killed has tripled the total of the previous 15 years combined. And the demographic percentage has been shifted: around 70 per cent of people killed in Gaza are today estimated to be women and children, including two mothers per hour killed since the beginning of the crisis.
“We have seen evidenced once more that women and children are the first victims of conflict and that our duty to seek peace is a duty to them. We are failing them. That failure, and the generational trauma inflicted on the Palestinian people over these 100 days and counting, will haunt all of us for generations to come,” highlighted UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous in a statement.
Gaza is fundamentally a protection crisis for women. Out of the 1.9 million people displaced, close to one million are women and girls, seeking refuge in precarious sheltering conditions, yet nowhere and no one is safe in Gaza.
The impossible decisions regarding whether to evacuate, how and when to do so, and where to go, are entrenched with gender differentiated fears and experiences, as gendered risks including attacks and harassment emerge along displacement routes.
UN Women estimates that at least 3,000 women may have become widows and heads of households, in urgent need of protection and food assistance, and at least 10,000 children may have lost their fathers. In this context, more women fear that families will resort to desperate coping mechanisms including early marriage.
Women-led and women’s rights organisations continue to operate despite the escalation of hostilities — 83 per cent of women’s organizations surveyed in the Gaza Strip are at least partially operational, mainly focusing on the emergency response.
However, UN Women’s analysis of funding to the 2023 Flash Appeal reveals that 0.09 per cent of funding has directly gone to national or local women’s rights organizations.
Through the six-month response plan, UN Women in Palestine has been addressing the crisis by providing life-saving assistance such as emergency food assistance to over 14,000 women-headed households, one-third of all women-headed households in Gaza; and supporting the distribution of clothing, sanitary products, and baby formula.
UN Women is also partnering with women-led organisations to deliver gender responsive services for gender-based violence; establishing women-led protection and response committees in shelters for displaced women; and convening regular consultations with women’s organisations in Palestine, to discuss the challenges they face.
It continues to call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and that no effort be spared to ensure women’s and girls’ protection and safe access to rapid, unimpeded, and gender-responsive humanitarian assistance.
The UN body also reiterates its deep concern at the accounts of unconscionable sexual violence and other gender-based violence during the October 7, 2023 Hamas attacks, its call for accountability, justice, and support for all those affected, and for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.