War on Gaza: where everyone is left behind - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
Press release

4 Nov 2023

War on Gaza: where everyone is left behind

policy brief cover in English

Beirut, 4 November 2023--While all civilians continue to bear the brunt of the war on Gaza, women, children and persons with disabilities are today more vulnerable than everyone else in it, constituting the highest share of casualties and receiving none of the vital health care required for their survival. The ongoing war and full siege, coupled with Israeli policies and practices during 56 years of occupation, and the protracted blockade, have exponentially exacerbated their vulnerabilities and are likely to perpetuate them for years to come.

This is one of the key takeaways from a new policy brief issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), titled “War on Gaza: where everyone is left behind,” which looks at the repercussions of the current war on vulnerable groups in Gaza, in particular persons with disabilities and women.

The brief underlines that the number of persons with disabilities had already doubled in Gaza from 2007 to 2017, amounting to 65,000 additional persons who were disproportionately affected by deteriorating living conditions under the blockade and recurrent military attacks. With the current war and siege, both health services and humanitarian aid are virtually non-existent, which puts the life of those persons at double risk.

ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti warned that military escalations and war not only perpetuate a vicious cycle of violence, but also entrench intergenerational harms and drive de-development, resulting in greater social divisions and exacerbated vulnerabilities. “It is crucial to pair immediate humanitarian interventions with a comprehensive and inclusion development plan, which should tackle the specific challenges of vulnerable groups in Gaza,” she underlined. “It is only through combining humanitarian, peace and development interventions that we can lay the foundations for a truly inclusive and peaceful society,” she continued.

As for women, the brief highlights that 11% of Gazan households were female-headed prior to the war, with nearly 46,000 women shouldering the responsibilities of their households’ livelihood. This figure is expected to increase far more than during previous escalations – with this one being undoubtedly the deadliest - exacerbating women’s conditions in an already fragile system with limited resources. Indeed, their unemployment rate stood already at 66% before the war, vastly exceeding the male unemployment rate of 40% and all other female unemployment rates in the Arab region.

The brief also notes that there are currently around 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, with more than 5,500 expected to deliver this November, in a situation where pre- and post-natal care has become non-existent because of severe destruction, displacement and a collapsed health-care system. This, combined with stress from chronic bombing, violence and displacement, will result in short- and long-term health issues for mothers and babies.

“Women should not only be protected as civilians in times of war, they should also be at the heart of peacebuilding processes,” affirmed Dashti. “Their voices must be heard, as without their active participation, violence will persist and escalate, resulting in missed opportunities all to live decently and thrive,” she concluded.




One of five United Nations regional commissions, ESCWA supports inclusive and sustainable economic and social development in Arab States, and works on enhancing regional integration.


For more information:

- Ms. Maryam Sleiman, Public Information Assistant, +961-81-769-888; email: sleiman2@un.org

- Ms. Rania Harb, Public Information Assistant, +961-70-008-879; email: harb1@un.org

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