War on Gaza: Tragic Toll on Women’s and Children’s Health - Published in La Presse Newspaper in french

War on Gaza: Tragic Toll on Women’s and Children’s Health - Published in La Presse Newspaper in french

18 November, 2023

by Dr. Duha Shellah, Medical & Health Sciences Division, Palestine Academy for Science & Technology

Published in La Presse Newspaper in french;

Text in English;

The last message I got yesterday was from one of my activist friends in Gaza before
the blackout “ this would be my last message to you, forgive us, but we will never
forgive”. I read it, my mind and heart crushed. The 16 year siege on Gaza, obliterated
opportunities of development, networking and exchange with other Palestinians in
West bank and Jerusalem or even with the outside world. Even so, we were planning
to meet in Gaza as activists and youth working groups in sexual and reproductive
health and rights in Gaza,.

Today, such meeting are no longer possible. Gaza is annihilated with massive
destruction of civil, educational and health infrastructure. Environmental hazards of
shells and bombs with no clear estimation of its impact on humans, health and
ecosystem of Gaza are transforming Gaza . If you take a look around, all you see are
remnants of the city. All forms of life and civilization ِare wiped out with brutal, blind
continuous military bombing from air, sea and land.

The continuous sound of bombardment, fear to be next, tragic loss of family, loved
ones and friends all would impact the mental health of Palestinians, and their well
being. Women and girls are in danger with local feminist organizations and UN
agencies warning of the loss of access to clean water, menstrual pads and other
hygiene items. Unimaginable circumstances women are living now in Gaza, some of
them are taking pills to prevent periods. Estimated 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza
have no access to healthcare, and most of primary health care services are shut
down. With no guarantee that pregnant women will have safe deliveries or even get
maternal care, and their babies won't get regular immunization, which is too risky.
Over 4000 Children have been killed, many have been displaced with their families or
lost their families due to bombardment.The devastating ramifications on children of
loss and pain, physically and mentally, will indeed affect their growth and well being,
and most importantly, their vision and perspectives of life and future. Gaza has been
described by UNICEF as “ Hell for children”, it is horrific, painful and inhuman what
Palestinian children are facing.

Displacement of 1.5 million Palestinian in Gaza and Israeli military orders of
evacuation to civilians, patients and hospitals are worsening the situation, leaving no
choice between life and being martyred. No water, food, electricity, fuel or medical
supplies and medications . Even with the appeals and call for actions by many United
nations agencies and international humanitarian and tight closure of borders on Gaza
strip, the humanitarian aid which entered is not enough, not enough at all.
In the West bank since 7 of October , around 800 Palestinians have been forcibly
displaced from their homes in the West Bank, driven out from 15 herding/Bedouin
communities in Area C, where another 121 Palestinians were displaced after the
demolition of their houses by the Israeli authorities dodging that they lack
Israeli-issued building permits. The restriction on movement with checkpoints,
demolition of houses and amid intensified settler violence and access restrictions.
Restrictions on movement hindering the access of pregnant women to the nearest
hospital to them to check their pregnancy or event to deliver. Women had to deliver
their babies home, in the street or if they were lucky in the ambulance or the car.
Also, reaching primary health care facilities becomes a luxury as they mostly wont
reach it. Providing essential sexual and reproductive health services is rare in area C
as only mobile clinics reach people in these communities, with restrictions on
movement they probably won't reach women and girls at this time.

Palestinian women and girls need a ceasefire to fulfill their right to health. Only with
a ceasefire will women feel safe to go to a health clinic or hospital for one of the four
recommended antenatal care checkups, to safe delivery, to get their babies
vaccinated or to get support for family planning. Only when borders are opened will
hospitals and health care facilities have electricity, fuel, medical supplies and
medications that allows them to deliver services. Doctors like myself and health
personnel in the frontlines want to be able to serve our patients. International law
and human rights conventions must be abided, and Palestininans must have their
right for self determination and freedom, and the world has to listen to them