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.
Conditions for people living in parts of north-west Pakistan have been getting steadily worse because of fighting between government forces and armed opposition groups in Bajaur Agency. Since the beginning of the armed conflict in Bajaur (August 2008), more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee to neighbouring districts in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Around 5,000 families have gone to Afghanistan.