Rafah, 8 March (OCHA) – The living conditions of Palestinian women – including their access to health, education, food and employment – have been deeply affected by movement restrictions, military incursions and house demolitions, particularly in Rafah, where almost 10,000 Palestinians including many women, have been made homeless.

“Today, as women all over the world celebrate International Women’s Day, Palestinian women continue to endure such hardship that their basic humanitarian needs are no longer guaranteed and protected”, says David S. Bassiouni, Special Representative, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in the West Bank and Gaza.

The ongoing conflict has lead to the following:

— An increase in the number of home deliveries — from 8.2 per cent (pre-intifada 2002) to 14 per cent;

— A decrease in the number of women attending post-natal care — from 95.6 per cent (pre-intifada 2002) to 82.4 per cent;

— 52 pregnant women gave birth at military checkpoints since 2002;

— 19 women and 29 newborns died at military checkpoints between September 2000 and December 2002; and

— 37.9 per cent of mothers reported that access to health services became difficult. Of the mothers reporting these difficulties, 44.3 per cent noted that these difficulties were due to Israeli siege and curfew and 27.9 per cent due to a lack of money to pay for such services.

This situation has brought seven United Nations institutions in the West Bank and Gaza together in expressing their concern.  These United Nations institutions believe that both parties of the conflict have obligations and responsibilities to improve the situation of Palestinian women.  Accordingly, they call upon:

— The Israeli authorities to provide safe and unconditional access to health services, education, employment, food and other basic supplies;

— The Palestinian Authority to continuously improve the quality of all basic services; and

— The international community to ensure that all parties abide by international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians, including women.

The seven organizations are:  United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Health Organization (WHO), World Food Program (WFP) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

For further information, please contact: Sami Mshasha, UNRWA, tel.: 02 589 0400, fax: 02:  532 2714, mobile: 050-317-094 e-mail: s.mashasha@unrwa.org; or Monica Awad, UNICEF, tel.: 02-5830013, ext.213, fax: 02-583-0806, mobile: 057-784-374, email: mawad@unicef.org.

Stephanie Bunker, Advocacy & External Relations Section – OCHA, Room S-3628A, e-mail: bunker@un.org, tel.: 917-367-5126, mobile: 917-892-1679, fax: 212-963-1312.

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