In areas ravaged by conflict, the health needs of women are often neglected and ignored. As the bombs fall, the damage to infrastructure and communications affects the whole community but women are particularly at risk. They are often prevented from reaching a health facility to give birth safely, or to care for their sick children. In some conflict-torn areas they suffer sexual violence, including rape. And while the war-wounded and emergency cases get priority, women's needs, and in particular the needs of pregnant mothers and their children, are often given scant attention.
As Egypt prepares to host an international conference in Sharm el-Sheikh (starting 2 March) the ICRC warns that emergency aid and reconstruction will not be enough to resolve the crisis in Gaza unless there is a prospect of a lasting peace.
Since the January 18 ceasefire in Gaza, the full extent of the destruction is becoming clearer. Three weeks of intense conflict have taken a heavy toll on civilians who are still mourning their dead and searching for possessions in the shattered ruins of their homes.