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26 Oct, 2014

UN Study: Israeli Gaza Onslaught Significantly Impacted Women’s Reproductive Health

RAMALLAH, October 18, 2014 – (WAFA) – A recent UN study revealed that the Israeli onslaught on Gaza has significantly impacted women’s reproductive health.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF) conducted a study titled Assessment of Impact of the Crisis in Gaza on Reproductive Health. The study was conducted by UNFPA expert Ali Shaar.

According to a press release issued by UNFPA on Thursday, the study revealed that all hospitals in the Gaza Strip were under severe shortage of medical and logistical supplies, and due to immense number of casualties with high risk, maternity wards and operation rooms were used as surgery room for women. Hospital in Gaza worked longer shifts due to inability of health worker’s mobility, at a time when hospital workers worked around the clock and hospitals were used as shelters.

The study also revealed that the impact of the crises on women was significant; 250 women were killed, including 16 pregnant women and 4 maternal mortality cases.

The study also showed that due to shortages in staffing, medications and disposables and increased preterm deliveries, neonatal care units were working under extreme stress that resulted in deterioration of working conditions and ultimately increased case fatalities among newborns.

Six maternity wards became dysfunctional due to the enormous destruction of the six hospitals and the restricted movement of health workers.  Maternity wards were functioning to treat the injured, and, hence, services for women in labor were challenged and women were discharged prematurely even after undergoing surgical procedures.

The recent Gaza ‘crisis’ coupled with the seven-year-long siege “have affected the lives of the citizens, causing unemployment and poverty, disruption of development, and deterioration of health services. Prior to the crisis, WHO reports revealed the challenges facing the Palestinians health system and its ability to provide the normal health services due to lack of medications and medical supplies.”

According to Shaar, who conducted the study, only 50% of primary healthcare centers were operational during the offensive due to damage, inability of health workers to reach duty stations and insecure movement of clients. In spite of this, primary healthcare workers tried to compensate for staff shortages by involving volunteers, midwives and students to provide services in remote isolated facilities. 70% decline of antenatal care utilization and 60-90% decline in family planning services utilization was documented in the month of July.

“More than 500,000 representing 28% of the population in Gaza were displaced. This number represents 10 times the anticipated number forecasted for emergency in Gaza and this has overwhelmed and challenged relief capacity of organizations on the ground. After ceasefire, 108,000 people remained in 18 shelters and within host families. Displaced families suffered from major difficulties accessing healthcare services during the war due to physical and financial barriers.”

Gender-based violence was reported by many women from shelters and host communities. For the sensitivity of this issue within the crises period, a special assessment was conducted by UNFPA with a focus on this problem.

The study showed that, “Poor living conditions already affecting hosting families with high unemployment has been further aggravated by the influx of fleeing families coming without any resources. Situation was made worse by the fact that these families were not registered for entitlement to aid and consequently deepened dependency on host families.  This in particular has resulted in significant discomfort, reduced living standard for hosting and hosted families and added to displacement burden another economic and psychological aspects.”