Women and Girls in Gaza Are Suffering Through Their Periods Without Water, Medicine, Pads

One hospital worker said she’s encountering “numerous instances of fever directly linked to vaginal yeast infections" due to the absence of feminine products.

Women and Girls in Gaza Are Suffering Through Their Periods Without Water, Medicine, Pads
A refugee camp set up for Palestinians seeking refuge along the Gaza Strip in October in Khan Yunis, Gaza. Photo:Getty Images

In an Instagram reel shared on Wednesday, Bisan, an independent journalist in Gaza who partnered with NO2TA the Feminist Lab, shared the harrowing everyday stories of women and girls as they menstruate under bombardment. Many are suffering through their periods without access to the basic hygiene products that are essential to prevent severe infection and disease.

Per an English translation Bisan provides in the reel, one hospital worker says that in her maternity ward, “a lot of women are urgently requesting pads” but there are none, “adding a new crisis to the existing challenges and restrictions caused by the Israeli occupation.” One young woman Bisan interviewed said that many people who are on their periods are forced to use scraps of cloth in the absence of pads or tampons. And, due to the lack of clean water under Israel’s blockade, they aren’t able to wash these cloths, which creates a higher risk of infection and a greater risk of cervical cancer.

Another hospital worker told Bisan that “each day” she encounters “numerous instances of fever directly linked to vaginal yeast infections, arising from inadequate hygiene and the absence of feminine products.” Sanitary pads and other menstrual products are “nowhere to be found,” she said—“even in pharmacies they’re not available.”

After months of Israeli bombardment, the health care system in Gaza is “completely collapsing,” Doctors Without Borders warned in December. Women, girls, and pregnant and menstruating people are among those experiencing the brunt of this: One hospital worker told Bisan that the “scarcity of basic products results in more hospital visits, longer hospital stays, and worsened conditions” due to infection and disease. On December 22, the World Health Organization reported that no “functional” hospitals remained in northern Gaza, and only nine remained in the south to serve an endless influx of injured and sick patients. Other women Bisan spoke to describe the “humiliation,” indignity, and mental health toll of being on their periods and lacking access to basic sanitary products. This is all on top of the physical pain and discomfort of a period under the best circumstances, and the daily, inescapable threats to their lives from Israel’s ongoing military campaign.

As of Tuesday, Al Jazeera reports at least 22,185 people have been killed, at least 57,000 have been injured, and thousands remain missing since Israel launched its offensive on Gaza in October. The Israeli death toll from Hamas attacks on Oct. 7 stands at 1,139 with about 200 people kidnapped. In October, Palestinian Family Planning & Protection Association’s (PFPPA) executive director Ammal Awadallah told Jezebel that life under occupation has always strained the sexual health resources available to women and girls: “Even before the latest escalation of attacks on the Gaza Strip, everything we had was so limited—and of course, this is not the first time the Gaza Strip has been attacked by Israel.”

But over the last few months, the state of sexual and reproductive health in Gaza has become a crisis. At the end of October, Al Jazeera reported that the total lack of privacy, water, and sanitary products amid Israel’s war on Gaza has forced many women and girls to take pills to delay their periods. This is despite unpleasant side effects the pills can cause, such as irregular bleeding and nausea.


Pregnant women, in particular, have been forced to suffer the unthinkable amid the war. Bisan spoke to one woman who had just reached her ninth month of pregnancy. The woman described “grappling with sleep deprivation, shortage of water, and a challenging bathroom situation,” constantly waiting in long lines and struggling to fall asleep due to anxiety.

In October, it was estimated that at least 50,000 women in Gaza were pregnant, as global health organizations expressed concern that there’s nowhere safe to give birth in Gaza right now. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) reported around that time that women were miscarrying or going into early labor from shock and stress under bombardment. In November, CARE International and Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) told Jezebel of numerous reported cases of pregnant women forced to undergo emergency c-sections without anesthetics, as hospitals are in severely short supply.

It’s conditions like these that have inspired outrage among reproductive health advocates in the U.S.—including organizations like Indigenous Women Rising, the National Network of Abortion Funds, and the Feminist Women’s Health Center, who signed onto a letter in support of Palestinian liberation in October. Hundreds of Planned Parenthood employees wrote their own letters criticizing their organization for what they see as an insufficient response to the crisis in Gaza from the organization’s leadership.

As Israel’s war on Gaza rages on with no end in sight, the conditions for women, girls, and pregnant and menstruating people under siege are only growing more dire by the day.

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