Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by The Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counselling[259]


  1.  The deteriorating economic conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) have impacted on women and children's nutritional status and general health. According to a Johns Hopkins University report prepared jointly with Al Quds University in August 2002,[260] 16% of non-pregnant women of childbearing age and 19.7% of children are suffering from moderate to severe anemia.

  2.  According to an estimate given by the Palestinian Ministry of Health,[261] there has been a decrease in antenatal and post-natal clinic attendance rates, due to the Israeli-imposed restrictions on movement; only about 30% of all eligible women now benefit from maternity services.

  3.  According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 9.8% of Palestinian families are now headed by females and the poverty rate among female-headed households is 25.6% (compared with 19.8% for male-headed households). Those households belong to widows of Martyrs, other widows, to wives of Palestinian prisoners, and also to women who have been abandoned by their husbands. The rise and increase on cases during the last two years belonging to the last category (families being abandoned by the husband) has been noticed by Human rights organisations and women's rights organizations such as the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counselling.


  4.  The lack of freedom movement of goods and people can't be positively affected by the present funding or by increasing it. Freedom of movement will only be applicable when Israel removes all checkpoints and other barriers.

  5.  The impact of the Israeli regime and checkpoints on the life of Palestinian women and their unborn children is one to be worried about as it is one of the clearest violations of the right to life. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, there have been numerous reported deaths of pregnant women at checkpoints in the last three years, and cases of harassment by soldiers of pregnant women, as well as cases in which women were forced to give birth at the military checkpoints.[262] There has also been an increase of 30% in home deliveries, due to movement restrictions. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),[263] one fifth of pregnant women in Gaza and the West Bank could not receive prenatal care because of the difficulty of traveling through checkpoints to health facilities. Women are being denied their basic right to deliver their babies in a safe and clean environment and thus their fundamental right to be treated with dignity.


  6.  Restriction on movement and economic hardship is also affecting female education. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), the illiteracy rate for individuals of 15 years and over is as follows 13.6% compared to 4.3% for males. Many families are not sending their children to school because of the checkpoints, the closure of roads, the ever present threat that Israeli military may use the school as a military base, the threat of violence if the school is situated near an area where regular confrontations take place.


  7.  Maternal Health Care is one sector which obviously is being affected the most. Looking at local statistics by the PBCS the percentage of pregnant women on 2001 who did not receive antenatal care (15-49 years), increased 4.5 times due to Israeli measures, 4.4% during 2000 to 19.6% during the present crisis. In addition, the percentage of pregnant women who did not receive tetanus toxoid increased by 4.2%. It increased from 73.5% in 2000 to 76.6% in 2001.

  8.  Women are affected at the public as well as the private sphere, as they experience the effects as the whole population and they also carry the consequences resulted by the loss of the land which are brought to the household as news responsibilities. What we are most concerned is on the overall health of women, taking it from its different angles Psychological, Emotional and Social. Her health status affects all members of the family. She is bearing the responsibility of caring and maintaining the well being of the whole family as part of a role traditionally she has been playing. During the present crisis, her role and responsibilities are enlarging in a context where resources and spaces are shrinking.

  9.  On the basis of information collected from our field visits and personal accounts from the owners of the confiscated land, gender relations are experiencing a crisis. While women are still doing the expected gender roles, the gender based violence is increasing, according to the Social Unit at the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counselling.

  10.  Mental health has been deteriorating as a direct impact on the ongoing Israeli measures. Fears are being articulated in different occasions by organizations such as WCLAC of the future situation of Palestinian people's mental health after the end of the present crisis. We expect that people will call for help and assistance on higher levels than they are now. Present statistics (not published) by WCLAC show an increase on cases approaching the center for help. Most of these cases are women.


  1.  To urge Israel to respect and adhere to International Humanitarian Law, specially 4th Geneva Convention, specially that basic services and public life are at risk, thus, endangering all efforts for future state building efforts. In this vein, the wall must stop, military checkpoints removed, and all kind of arbitrary violent measures against Palestinian people.

  2.  To ensure that the existing structures of the Palestinian Authority can be reinforced by donor's assistance; specially those structures which provide daily and basic service for people, such as municipalities, and relevant ministries, (the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education . . . etc.)

  3.  To pay special attention and focus on the assistance of the Ministry of Social Affairs, for its expected role and its present weaknesses, which are affecting different sectors, such women, specially poor women, children and special needs individuals.

  4.  To strategise donor's assistance for Palestinian NGO's towards the building and the strengthening of civil society.

  5.  To assist and reinforce the capability of UNRWA in its efforts to aid and help Palestinian refugees. The cuts made during the past years resulted in a shortage of UNRWA assistance to refugees which has aggravated specially the situation of poor refugees.

October 2003

259   The Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) is a Palestinian Non-governmental Organisation that aims to contribute to the establishment of a democratic Palestinian society, based on social justice and equality between women and men. WCLAC strives to provide support and guidance to Palestinian women whose human rights and rights under law have been violated. We defend women's rights as human rights and seek to promote the development of a social, political and legal order in which human rights and women's rights are well protected. Back

260   Nutritional Assessment and Sentinel Surveillance System for West Bank and Gaza. Johns Hopkins University, Al Quds University. 5 August, 2002. Back

261   Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).-Relief Web. As mentioned by OCHA, information has been taken from the Ministry of Health. Back

262   Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).-Relief Web. Taken from the Ministry of Health, as mentioned on their website. Back

263   The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations, New York, 5 April 2002. Back

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