The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security was encouraged to see the adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days to enable full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access” and “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.” The humanitarian situation in Gaza is worsening by the day. Violence must cease so that desperately needed aid can get in.
Women are disproportionately impacted by the conflict and ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 calls for attention to the gendered impacts of conflict and urges the incorporation of women’s voices and gender perspectives in all aspects of peace and security, a call which – given women’s immense suffering in Gaza – must be heeded.
The Gaza Health Ministry reports that over 22,000 people have been killed and more than 57,000 injured in Gaza since the war began. Women and children comprise almost 70 percent of casualties. Due to societal norms and social protection strategies amidst instability, it is reported that women in Gaza often shelter clustered together. This means more women are likely to die in a single airstrike by the Israeli military.
Reports indicate that more than 85 percent of Gazans are now displaced, and 60 percent of homes in Gaza have been destroyed. Displacement, a lack of shelter, and crowded conditions undermine dignity and increase the risk of gender-based violence, particularly for women and girls. The risks of famine and malnutrition are acute amidst blockades, restrictions on aid access, and the destruction of Gaza’s food system. The World Food Programme reports one in four households facing extreme hunger, with many mothers eating just once a day in order to ensure their children are fed.
Air strikes and fighting have decimated Gaza’s hospitals, compromising more than 50 healthcare facilities and 190 ambulances. The healthcare system teeters on the verge of collapse. More than 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, 180 of whom are expected to give birth every day, are at significant risk. Dire conditions have led to women giving birth in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, including cesarean sections without anesthesia. Women and girls lack access to feminine hygiene products, increasing their likelihood of infection and illness. All women’s shelters in Gaza are now closed, leaving women facing domestic violence – a widespread problem before the war – with nowhere to turn.
The lives of hostages remain at risk. As details emerge of extensive sexual violence committed by Hamas against Israeli women on October 7, there is concern about the safety of the remaining women still held hostage in Gaza. In the West Bank, Israeli authorities have increased the administrative detention of Palestinians, under which people can be held indefinitely without charges or trial. Detained Palestinian women face risks of sexual assault and harassment.
A humanitarian ceasefire is urgently needed to ensure that Palestinian civilians receive critical aid. Any assistance in the days and weeks ahead must honor commitments made under the Women, Peace and Security framework and address the gendered impacts of the conflict and the rapidly escalating humanitarian crisis.