A staggering 70% of the over 11,000 people killed in Gaza are women and children. A child is killed every 10 minutes. Pregnant women are undergoing C-sections with no anesthetics. Women and girls are facing growing risks of gender-based violence in overcrowded shelters.
As is often the case in humanitarian crises, women and children are suffering disproportionate impacts from the Israel-Gaza war. CARE West Bank and Gaza Country Director spoke yesterday with UN Security Council experts working on Women Peace and Security about those devastating impacts and urged for a ceasefire to stop them. Read her full remarks below.
CARE's Hiba Tibi's remarks to an informal meeting of Security Council experts on Women Peace and Security
"Thank you for having me here today. My name is Hiba Tibi and I am the country director for CARE International in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where our teams have been serving since 1948. We support about 200,000 Palestinians in Gaza and about 300,000 in the West Bank to meet basic food needs, improve farming and agriculture, empower women to earn an income, support women’s leadership, and improve health programs focused on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health, and children’s mental health.
"I will focus my opening remarks on the situation in Gaza but can speak to the situation in the West Bank if you have questions later.
"For the last month, our team has continued to work tirelessly to distribute urgently needed water and hygiene kits in Gaza. We also see firsthand that it is civilians, especially women and girls, who are paying the highest price of the current conflict.
Almost 70% of those killed in Gaza are women and children, a child is killed every 10 minutes. Nearly every day we have seen more fatalities and injuries than the day before. Each of those lives matter and yet, we seem to have become used to these daily reports.
"Women and girls represent half of the population in Gaza and 11% of households are headed by females. This is likely to increase as the violence results in a growing number of widows, for whom the loss of livelihoods, housing, and land will have an even more significant impact.
"I know that you heard about the collapse of the water, sanitation, hygiene, and health infrastructure as fuel storages run out and major hospitals shut down. This lack of access to sanitation facilities and hospitals coupled with the lack of hygiene supplies expose women and girls to diseases and infections- just like how my colleagues developed skin rash and diseases.
"Moreover, yesterday the UNWRA advised that starting today, they cannot deliver any more aid because there simply is no fuel for the trucks, even if aid reaches Gaza.
"For the more than 180 women who give birth in Gaza every day, it means that many are doing so without medical assistance, some in overcrowded shelters or on the streets amidst the rubble, where they risk medical complications and infections that could threaten their own lives as well as their babies’ lives.
We have received reports of women undergoing C-sections without proper anaesthesia, of young mothers unable to breastfeed for lack of proper nutrition and forced to use contaminated water to prepare formula (which is also very difficult to find).
"Due to the lack of capacity in hospitals, women are being discharged within as little as three hours after giving birth, and tragically we are now witnessing premature babies dying because there is no power to run incubators that could keep them alive.
"Sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights, already limited prior to the escalation, have only become worse now.
"Amidst dire food insecurity, women and children, especially pregnant and breast-feeding women, are at risk of malnutrition, which will negatively affect their immune health, increasing their exposure to contracting maternal nutrition-related illnesses, such as anemia, and increasing the risk of death for both mothers and babies.
The violence and destruction have resulted in nearly half a million women and girls being displaced from their homes. Protection and GBV risks are on the rise given the overcrowded shelters’ conditions while access to services is extremely limited.
An appeal to the Council
"Against this backdrop of a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza and potential spillover effects in the region, I appeal to the Security Council to do the following:
"First and foremost, the UN Security Council should prioritize the preservation of human life above all else and call on parties to declare an immediate ceasefire.
"The scale of the crisis and destruction of civilian infrastructure, the utter disregard for IHL, and rapidly rising humanitarian needs necessitate immediate action to ensure:
- the full, safe, and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance
- the unconditional release of all civilian hostages, and
- the evacuation of patients for urgent care.
Let me be clear that an immediate ceasefire is the starting point. CARE does not believe that “safe zones” are the starting point.
"Wars have rules and international humanitarian law must be respected by all parties. Civilians must be protected, their essential needs met, wherever they are in Gaza.
"This brings me to my second recommendation:
"Humanitarians have demonstrated their unwavering commitment to deliver essential assistance and relief in near-impossible conditions, but we cannot, and should not be expected to singlehandedly provide lifesaving assistance to more than two million people as the bombs continue to rain down from above. The protection of humanitarian workers and humanitarian relief items and infrastructure is critical as humanitarian needs can only be met so long as there is safe access.
"My third and final recommendation concerns the longer-term future of the humanitarian response in Gaza:
"While our staff and partners have been directly impacted by the conflict, for the sustainability of the humanitarian response, it is critical to support local leadership and accountability of aid efforts to all affected communities. Direct and flexible humanitarian funding needs to be scaled up in order to enable NGOs and local aid groups, particularly women-led organizations, to respond to the scale of needs that they will face once the guns have been silenced.
"Time is of the essence – We are witnessing unspeakable suffering of civilians in Gaza, for whom international law guarantees protection. Palestinian women and children are bearing the brunt of the violence, unsure if they will still be alive the next day, or even the next hour.
There is no safe place in Gaza – the conflict is killing children and robbing millions of their dignity. The time to protect our common humanity is now.