Women and girls taking refuge in Gaza face severe shortage of sexual and reproductive health supplies, disease outbreaks – Occupied Palestinian Territory

Shelter conditions in Gaza, which has an estimated 1.4 million internally displaced people, have become dire, with women and girls reporting severe shortages of menstrual hygiene products, high cases of sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections, severe overcrowding in shelters and little to no medical services .

Contraceptives are in short supply and, according to our local teams who provide shelter and services in Gaza, women are sharing them. Women using intrauterine devices (IUDs) are experiencing bleeding and infections due to poor sanitation in the camps. There are currently no options for removing IUDs in Gaza, which poses long-term risks to women’s reproductive health, including severe bleeding.

On October 25, the United Nations said that Gaza’s fuel could run out within hours and that hospitals in the Strip would only accept emergency cases, which would prevent many women and girls from seeking sexual and reproductive health care.If Israel continues to block humanitarian aid, including safe delivery kits, from entering Gaza, many of the estimated 50,000 pregnant women[1] Gaza will have no safe place to give birth and at least 15% may develop complications[2]further undermining already stalled progress in reducing maternal morbidity and mortality.

Wafa Abu-Hasheish, a health worker at PFPPA in Gaza said:

“Shelters face water shortages, lack of medical services, increased incidence of illnesses such as influenza, chest infections, skin ulcers, scabies, lice and diarrhoea, and girls and women report menstrual irregularities. There are also cases of sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections. Use Women on birth control pills are sharing their supplies with others.

The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Gaza is currently estimated at around 1.4 million (more than half the population), a large proportion of whom live in overcrowded and under-supplied shelters, running out of food, water and fuel – basic and Life-sustaining services are becoming increasingly difficult to access. The toll on local health workers in Gaza, both mental and physical, is enormous. “

Abu-Hashish added:

“Personally, being a service provider and being present at shelters has caused me some psychological issues, stress and fear. I also suffer from neck pain and tight back muscles due to the inability to sleep or sit up straight. I have an infection I had the flu and developed severe breathing difficulties, but due to the high number of patients and the scarcity of medicines, there was a lack of available treatment for the displaced. Despite the danger and lack of safety at home, I had to go home to rest and relax.

Ammal Awadallah, Executive Director of the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association (PFPPA) said:

“If pregnant women are lucky enough to reach a health center or hospital, they are admitted only after their cervix is ​​fully dilated. And, because hospital facilities are overcrowded and lack space and resources, they must be discharged within three hours of delivery.”

“Women are forced to choose privacy and clean spaces in their homes (where they still stand) or in shelters with terrible conditions. It is a choice between different evils. There is no safe place in Gaza.”

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The Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association (PFPPA) was founded in Jerusalem in 1964 and is registered locally as an independent, non-profit and non-governmental association with its headquarters in Jerusalem. The PFPPA has service delivery points in the West Bank in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Al-Hahur, as well as a service delivery point in the Gaza Strip following the Israeli air strikes on October 8. It was destroyed and has not yet been relocated. In addition, PFPPA is responsible for establishing 3 safe spaces in the Jerusalem area to provide gender-based violence (GBV)-related services in collaboration with local partners.

About the International Planned Parenthood Federation

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is a global service provider and advocate for the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people.

For 70 years, IPPF, through its 150 member associations and partners, has provided high-quality sexual and reproductive health care and helped advance sexual rights, especially for people with intersectional and diverse needs that currently remain unmet. Our member associations and partners are locally owned, independent organisations, meaning the support and care they provide is based on local expertise and context.

We advocate for a world where people have the information they need to make informed decisions about their sexual health and bodies. We stand up to fight for sexual and reproductive rights and against those who seek to deny people their right to bodily autonomy and freedom. No matter what, we provide care rooted in rights, respect and dignity.

[1] Source: United Nations Population Fund

[2] Source: MISP

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