Advocacy, Fragile Settings, Eastern Mediterranean

Statement Calling for an Immediate Ceasefire in Palestine

ICM
6 May 2024

Since October 2023, we have witnessed the unfolding of an untold massacre in Palestine. Economic collapse, infrastructure destruction, environmental damage and displacement have created a multi-dimensional crisis. Recent events ordering the evacuation of the safe haven in Southern Gaza and expectation of further escalation threatens to make an already dire humanitarian situation even worse. 

As we bear witness to these events, we urge all our member associations to stand in solidarity with the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), UN agencies, and human rights organisations in advocating to their governments and calling for:  

  • an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and release of all hostages,  
  • an immediate end to the attacks on hospitals in Gaza,   
  • the protection of health staff, patients and civilians, including midwives,  
  • the establishment of reliable entry points for relief supplies and humanitarian aid,  
  • immediate action to protect, promote and respect the right to life, health and dignity.  

According to the April 2024 UNFPA Situation Report on the Crisis in Palestine, over 33,000 people have been killed, 70% of whom are women and children. Pregnant women, mothers and newborns are contending with severe shortages of food, water and medical care.  

According to the UNFPA, there has been a surge in premature births and low birth weights, as well as in caesarean sections, happening in perilous conditions often without access to basic supplies, all due to the fear and danger women face every day, and a lack of food and water. Miscarriages have increased by 300%. All but three maternity hospitals have been destroyed or closed, and those that are open are overwhelmed with demand. Health workers, including midwives, face unimaginable working and living conditions. 

Even if they are not pregnant, women and girls face difficulties dealing with their reproductive health. Menstrual pads are inaccessible for over two-thirds of the women and girls in Palestine, with an extreme shortage of toilets and showers in internal displacement sites. Gender based violence is increasing. 

ICM is especially concerned about the targeted destruction of hospitals and health facilities in Gaza, and destruction of other essential infrastructure. We condemn the killing and injuring of women and children, as well as the targeting of health care workers that has, and continues to happen. We also are concerned about the continued dangers midwives and other health workers face for doing their jobs. In Gaza and the West Bank, midwives face danger and violence on their way to work and at work. They are also unable to do their jobs well because of a lack of water, medicines and other essentials necessary for safe childbirth, and an overall danger to their lives and the lives of women they are caring for. 

During a recent visit to the West Bank, we had the opportunity to hear from midwives working in health facilities who told us of the extreme difficulty and danger they face getting to work. They continue to do their jobs despite skyrocketing transportation costs, travel time, and no salary payments since October 2023.  

The only way to protect the lives of women, newborns, midwives and health workers is to come together and demand a ceasefire, and implementation of a longer-term peace plan.  

In response to this urgent situation, all stakeholders are urged to unite in a collective effort to prioritise the cessation of violence, safeguard vulnerable populations, and deliver essential humanitarian assistance. 

Looking ahead, comprehensive efforts will be needed to rebuild shattered healthcare systems and restore vital services for sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, and adolescent health. To begin this essential work, and to piece together this broken and traumatised society, peace must prevail immediately.