Women and girls in Gaza are experiencing unprecedented levels of violence, making the besieged territory one of the world’s most dangerous places be a woman right now. As the world marks 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, women and girls in Gaza are being killed and injured at a horrifying rate, having their essential rights to food, water and healthcare denied daily, and undergoing immense psychological strain and trauma after two months of living in terror.
The figures paint a stark and appalling picture. Two mothers are killed every hour in Gaza, and seven women every two hours. In total, more than 4,000 women have been killed since October 7, while overall, women and children make up almost 70% of the total death toll. Almost every woman and girl will have lost someone – whether it is their child, their husband, their parent, sibling, relative, neighbor or friend.
Hana* a doctor at ActionAid’s partner Al-Awda Hospital in the north of Gaza, said:
“We have faced many horrifying stories during the [attacks] on the Gaza Strip:women who have suffered physical and psychological violence. One of the stories that stuck with me was of a woman who was due to have a natural birth. But her house was bombed, and the bombing resulted in her needing an emergency C-Section. She lost her newborn; the child [died] due to the stress she faced. Tragically, her husband and the rest of her children were also [killed]. This woman had a simple dream of a family, and of a safe place for her birth. She dreamt of raising her children alongside her husband. Now, she’s suffering [with her] mental [health] after losing her newborn and family.”
Around 50,000 women in Gaza are pregnant, and each day, 180 are risking their lives to give birth without adequate medical care. That includes undergoing caesareans and emergency operations without sterilization, anesthesia, or painkillers.
Naimah*, a midwife at Al-Awda Hospital, told us:
“During the Israeli [attacks] on Gaza, we witnessed a number of cases of women who survived violence from the attacks. There was one woman whose house was bombed, and [she] was rescued from under the rubble. She reached the hospital with several breaks and fractures all over her body. She was also in active labour, so she was rushed to the operating room. Thankfully, both she and her child survived and are now doing well. [But] this woman’s right to have a safe place to give birth in was lost. She also lost her right to access basic needs for both herself and her child.’
‘Her dream of having her own little family was destroyed by the violence and attacks destroying the Gaza Strip. She was stripped of her dream and joy, and her basic human rights. This woman, who had suffered physical abuse due to the attacks, will also suffer mental health and psychological repercussions. Food scarcity will heavily affect her milk supply when she’s breastfeeding her baby.”
Since the war began, 800,000 women have been displaced from their homes, often multiple times. Many women and girls are now living in extremely overcrowded facilities, where in some places, there is just one shower per 700 people and one toilet per 150 people. There is little or no water for them to wash with, no privacy, no soap for them to keep themselves clean, and no period products.
Aya*, a mother and humanitarian worker who has been displaced from her home three times, said:
“As a woman, I’m suffering. I don’t have access to the basic necessities of life. There is no water. I suffered during my period. There was no water available for me to get clean during my period. I had no sanitary pads for my own needs throughout my period.”
The psychological toll the crisis is taking on women and girls in Gaza is severe. Even before the current war, many had experienced recurring human rights violations due to Israel’s blockade and multiple previous offensives, leaving them dealing with extreme psychological distress.
Yara*, a mother and humanitarian worker displaced to southern Gaza, said:
”Today, I no longer have hope. I have become more afraid than before. Every day that passes, this fear and terror increases more. I, as a mother, have only two wishes. The first thing I wish is that I die before my children. I don’t want to see my children die in front of me. The second wish is that I die quickly, so when the missile comes to bomb us, I die quickly and I do not stay under the rubble for 16, 17, 18 hours.”
In the last two months, they have repeatedly witnessed unimaginable scenes of death and destruction. With nowhere safe, there has been no relief from the terror of wondering whether they and their families will live to see another day. As the world marks 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, a permanent ceasefire in Gaza must be a central demand of the campaign. It is the only way to end the devastating violence women and girls are experiencing right now.
Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine, said:
“Gaza is the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman or girl right now. The number of women and girls being senselessly killed in this violence rises by the hour. Meanwhile every day is a desperate struggle for them to meet their most basic needs. For two whole months, this nightmare has dragged on, leaving women and girls in Gaza wondering why the world has abandoned them. It’s no surprise that some are starting to lose hope. The world cannot let the women and girls of Gaza down any longer – it must demand a permanent ceasefire, now.”
For media requests, please email Christal.James@actionaid.org or call 704 665 9743.
Spokespeople are available:
- Niranjali Amerasinghe, Executive Director of ActionAid USA
- Meredith Slater, Director of Development for ActionAid USA
- Riham Jafari, Coordinator of Advocacy and Communication for ActionAid Palestine