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Women Caught in Conflict: Urgent Calls for Action and Support

Article by Jamilya Nurkanova | April 15, 2024 | Global Rights Defenders


 

The celebration of women’s contributions and achievements are often a global call for action to intensify the quest for gender equality and fight against gender-based violence. Nations have become increasingly aware of the women’s rights agenda for peace, and in the times of non-conflicts, diplomacy and local civil society can offer tools for progress to achieve gender equality. However, as the world becomes more entrenched in war and violent conflicts such as in Ukraine, Gaza, and Sudan, the fate of the affected women cannot be overlooked.

 

According to UN Women, out of 5.6 million refugees from Ukraine, around 90 percent are women and children, which is considered to be “one of the most gendered displacement crises of our times.”[1] In Gaza, out of 1.9 million displaced individuals, 1 million are women and girls. Staggeringly, 70 percent of civilians killed by the Israeli bombardments of Gaza are also women and children.[2] Women and children pay a disproportionate price in political conflicts with their lives as victims of conflict-related sexual violence, lack of access to food and health systems, shelters, and education.

 

The ongoing attacks on civilians and vital infrastructure such as hospitals, including labor wards, emergency and operating rooms, and humanitarian aid corridors, leave mothers and children with no access to basic healthcare and nutrition, worsening their chances of survival. As of today, the Associated Press reports that the acute rates of malnutrition, specifically of children in the Northern part in Rafah, had already resulted in 16 deaths at the Emirati Hospital.[3] It is expected that the rates of malnutrition will catch up in the South, and that famine will be declared in May of 2024, with a threshold of 20 percent of the population being deprived of access to food and water.

 

The OHCHR additionally observes that “with fuel, medicine, water and hospital supplies rapidly diminishing or running out, pregnant women face the likelihood of giving birth without anaesthesia, sanitary precautions or, if necessary, surgical intervention. It is estimated that at least 15 percent of these births have complications requiring basic or comprehensive obstetric care. Several women are reported to have died before or during childbirth. Furthermore, according to UNFPA, over 690,000 menstruating women and girls have limited access to menstrual hygiene products.”[4]

 

Similarly, since the conflict erupted in April 2023, Sudan has seen 8.1 million individuals forced to leave their homes, with 6.3 million of them displaced within the country. This includes more than 1.5 million women and girls of reproductive age, with nearly 150,000 currently pregnant.[5]

 

The data clearly demonstrates that women and girls are deprived of access to reproductive safety and are at a greater risk of sexual and health emergencies. Moreover, war increases women and girls’ exposure to human trafficking and conflict-related sexual violence. In this regard, individuals and nation-states must demand and amplify the call for ceasefire, and support women-led NGOs that are better situated to address women and children’s critical needs. As citizens, we must monitor the official data and reports from the ground, mobilize for action, donate to local organizations, support independent journalists reporting on these conflicts, and use diplomacy wisely to help women, children, and men in dire need. 


References


[1] UN Women Europe and Central Asia. (2023, February 20). Ukraine crisis is gendered, so is our response. Retrieved March 1, 2024, from https://eca.unwomen.org/en/stories/in-focus/2023/02/in-focus-war-in-ukraine-is-a-crisis-for-women-and-girls#:~:text=%5B1%5D%20Nearly%20one-third,displacement%20 causes%20of%20our%20 times.


[2] International Rescue Committee. (2024, March 7). From Gaza to Ukraine the IRC highlights women at frontlines of crisis, this International Women's Day. Retrieved March 8, 2024, from https://www.rescue.org/uk/press-release/gaza-ukraine-irc-highlights-women-frontlines-crisis-international-womens-day#:~:text=During%20crises%2C%20girls%20and%20women,water%2C%20shelter%2C%20and%20healthcare.


[3] Jahjouh, M., Jeffery, J., & Keath, L. (2024, March 8). It’s not just Israeli bombs that have killed children in Gaza. Now some are dying of hunger too. International Rescue Committee. Retrieved March 8, 2024, from https://apnews.com/article/gaza-malnutrition-famine-children-dying-israel-palestinians-2f938b1a82d7822c7da67cc162da1a37

 

[4] Jahjouh, M., Jeffery, J., & Keath, L. (2024, March 8). It’s not just Israeli bombs that have killed children in Gaza. Now some are dying of hunger too. International Rescue Committee. Retrieved March 8, 2024, from https://apnews.com/article/gaza-malnutrition-famine-children-dying-israel-palestinians-2f938b1a82d7822c7da67cc162da1a37


[5] Situation Report: Sudan. (2024, February 23). https://reports.unocha.org/en/country/sudan/

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