Amid relentless violence, families flee their shattered homes in Tal al-Hawa neighbourhood, seeking refuge in the southern Gaza Strip, 10 October 2023. Photo: UNICEF/Eyad El Baba. - Photo: 2023

UN Women Report Highlights Shocking Impact of the Gaza Crisis

By Caroline Mwanga

New York | 21 October 2023 — UN Women estimates that the eruption of violence and destruction has already resulted in close to 493,000 women and girls being displaced from their homes in Gaza. Furthermore, the violence has resulted in a growing number of widows, with an estimated 900 women becoming the heads of households following their male partner’s death.

If no ceasefire is achieved, these numbers will continue to rise, says a new report titled UN Women’s Rapid Assessment and Humanitarian Response in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Following the 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel and the ensuing Israeli attacks on Gaza, the report has analyzed the differentiated impact on women, men, boys, and girls, to ensure adequate responses to their needs.

Sarah Hendriks, UN Women Deputy Executive Director, ad interim said: UN Women has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid including food, water, fuel, and health supplies that are critical for the survival of women and girls in the Gaza Strip. It is imperative that we ensure immediate access to services for women and girls and ensure the prevention of gender-based violence. As the international community seeks to respond to this crisis, we must also wholeheartedly support and invest in women-led organizations which are at the front-line of the humanitarian response and promote the meaningful participation of women in humanitarian and political processes”.

The significant, largely displaced population of women and girls, and new female-headed households, have unique and urgent needs and vulnerabilities that must be recognized and addressed. These vulnerabilities are rooted in structural gender discrimination, including laws in Palestine that assume women to be under the protection and guardianship of men.

This legal framework increases the risks women face, including gender-based violence and food insecurity, making them more likely than men to live in substandard temporary shelters when displaced, and less likely to access financial assets or documentation.

Currently, women and girls are seeking refuge in overcrowded shelters that lack essential provisions such as food, water, and privacy heightening protection risks.

Even prior to the current crisis, the situation in Gaza was desperate, with 97 percent of men and 98 percent of women fearing for their safety. Depression levels among women and men were high due to unemployment and a deep sense of hopelessness, and 54 percent of Gaza’s men, the highest numbers across the Middle East, showed signs of anxiety and depression.

Since the onset of the current crisis, UN Women has been playing an important role in the coordination of the United Nations humanitarian response on gender equality, providing analysis of the differentiated impact of the war on women and girls, to ensure adequate responses. The Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund, which is a partnership between the United Nations, Member States, and civil society, to support women-led and women’s rights organizations working to build peace and provide humanitarian response throughout the world, has also launched an emergency appeal for Palestine to support local women’s organizations.

Read the full Rapid Assessment and Humanitarian Response in Occupied Palestinian Territory here. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Amid relentless violence, families flee their shattered homes in Tal al-Hawa neighbourhood, seeking refuge in the southern Gaza Strip, 10 October 2023. Photo: UNICEF/Eyad El Baba.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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