Women's Journal

Health Crisis for Women and Children in Gaza

Image Commercially Licensed from: Unsplash
Image Commercially Licensed from: Unsplash

In the Gaza region, the intensification of conflicts has led to dire consequences for women, children, and newborns, as highlighted by UNICEF, UNRWA, UNFPA, and WHO. Data from the Ministry of Health as of November 3rd shows a staggering number of fatalities and injuries among women and children, who make up 67% of the casualties, with an average of 420 children facing death or injury daily.

The relentless bombings have led to the destruction or dysfunction of medical facilities, significant displacement, and the breakdown of essential services like water and electricity, which are crucial for maternal, newborn, and child health services. Approximately 50,000 expectant mothers in Gaza, with around 180 deliveries per day, are at risk, especially the 15% who encounter complications during pregnancy or childbirth and require urgent medical attention.

The closure of 14 hospitals and 45 primary health care centers has forced many women to deliver in less than ideal conditions, such as shelters or amidst debris, which has increased the risk of infections and medical complications. The shelling of Al Hilo Hospital on November 1st, a key maternity facility, has exacerbated the situation, with maternal deaths expected to rise due to inadequate care.

The psychological impact of the conflict is also causing reproductive health issues, including an increase in miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature births due to stress. The situation is worsened by pre-existing malnutrition among pregnant women, affecting childhood survival and development. As the crisis limits access to food and water, the threat of malnutrition and disease grows, putting the lives of mothers and their families at risk.

Newborns in Gaza are in a precarious situation, with the potential shortage of fuel threatening the lives of approximately 130 infants in need of neonatal and intensive care, as medical equipment like incubators could cease to function.

More than half of Gaza’s population is now seeking refuge in UNRWA facilities, facing severe shortages of water and food, leading to hunger, malnutrition, dehydration, and the spread of diseases.

Despite the challenges, UN agencies have managed to deliver critical medical supplies and equipment to Gaza, including those needed for newborns and reproductive health. However, the demand for aid is immense, and there is an urgent need for more resources to assist civilians, particularly pregnant women, children, and newborns.

The situation is critical, with no fuel entering Gaza since October 7th. Humanitarian agencies require immediate access to fuel to support hospitals, water treatment plants, and bakeries. An urgent humanitarian pause is necessary to mitigate suffering and prevent the crisis from worsening. It is imperative that all conflict parties adhere to international humanitarian law to safeguard civilians and infrastructure, including healthcare services. The right to healthcare must be upheld for all civilians, including those held as hostages, who should be released immediately and unconditionally.

Children, as the most vulnerable group, need special protection, and all parties must ensure their safety in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights laws.