Nearly 493,000 women and girls have already been displaced from their homes in Gaza, following the ongoing conflict there. This information is based on estimates of UN Women’s ‘Rapid Assessment and Humanitarian Response in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’.
In addition, the violence has resulted, tragically, in a growing number of widows. This comes as an estimated 900 women — following their male partner’s death — have become the heads of their households.
UN Women has analyzed the differentiated impact of the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and the ensuing Israeli attacks on Gaza in context of women, men, boys and girls, in order to ensure adequate responses to their needs.
These numbers are expected to continue rising if no ceasefire is achieved.
According to Sarah Hendriks, who is the UN Women Deputy Executive Director, “UN Women has called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid including food, water, fuel, and health supplies that are critical for the survival of women and girls in the Gaza Strip.”
Hendriks added, “It is imperative that we ensure immediate access to services for women and girls and ensure the prevention of gender-based violence. As the international community seeks to respond to this crisis, we must also wholeheartedly support and invest in women-led organizations which are at the frontline of the humanitarian response and promote the meaningful participation of women in humanitarian and political processes.”
The largely displaced, significant population of girls, women, new female-headed households, have urgent and unique needs and vulnerabilities that must be recognized and addressed. These vulnerabilities are rooted in gender discrimination that is structural. This includes laws in Palestine that assume that a woman is under the guardianship and protection of men.
This legal framework increases the risks — including gender-based violence and food insecurity — that women face. It makes them more likely than men to live in substandard temporary shelters when they are displaced and less likely to have access to financial assets or documentation.
At present, girls and women are seeking refuge in overcrowded shelters that lack essential provisions such as water, food and privacy, which leads to heightened protection risks.
The situation in Gaza — even prior to the current conflict — was desperate, with 98 per cent of women and 97 per cent of men fearing for their safety, the agency said.
Due to unemployment and a deep sense of hopelessness, depression levels among men and women were high and 54 per cent of Gaza’s men showed signs of anxiety and depression. These were among the highest numbers across the Middle East.
The Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund has also launched an emergency appeal for Palestine to support local women’s organisations. It is a partnership between the United Nations, civil society and member states to support women-led and women’s rights organisations. It works to build peace and provide humanitarian response across the world.
The 2023 Israel–Hamas war is an ongoing armed conflict between Palestinian militant groups led by Hamas and Israel, which began on 7 October 2023, with a coordinated surprise offensive on Israel. The attack began in the morning with a barrage of at least 5,000 rockets launched from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip against Israel.
Thereafter, some 2,500 Palestinian militants breached the Gaza–Israel barrier and attacked civilian communities and IDF military bases near the Gaza Strip. At least 1,400 Israelis were killed, including 260 people at a music festival in Re’im. Unarmed civilian hostages — including women and children — and captured Israeli soldiers were taken to the Gaza Strip.
Israel began conducting retaliatory strikes before formally declaring war on Hamas a day later. Hamas launched its attacks during the end of the Sukkot Jewish holiday, exactly 50 years after the beginning of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.