UK

UK pledges £4.25m in sexual and reproductive aid for women in Gaza

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron reiterated the Government line that an ‘immediate pause’ in the fighting is needed.

A Palestinian woman fleeing the Israeli offensive arrives in Rafah (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
Palestinian woman A Palestinian woman fleeing the Israeli offensive arrives in Rafah (AP Photo/Hatem Ali) (Hatem Ali/AP)

The UK has pledged £4.25 million to help the UN’s agency for sexual and reproductive healthcare in Gaza as thousands of women and girls remain displaced and at risk amid the unrelenting war.

Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron reiterated the British Government’s call for an “immediate pause” in the fighting as he unveiled the funding package on Sunday.

The aid for UNFPA comes as Britain and other countries continue to suspend support for another UN agency operating in the war zone.

Several nations have frozen funding for UNRWA amid a review of Israeli allegations that some of its employees took part in the deadly Hamas attack on October 7.

The Foreign Office said the £4.25 million was expected to reach about 111,500 women and around one in five of the adult women in Gaza.

It is to be used to provide help to community midwives as well as the distribution of about 20,000 menstrual hygiene management kits and 45,000 delivery kits, the department said.

The Foreign Secretary confirmed the additional funding in response to a UN flash appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

He said: “Women are bearing the brunt of the desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza today. Many thousands of women are currently pregnant and will be worrying about delivering their babies safely.

Lord Cameron has called for an immediate pause to the fighting
Lord Cameron visits Sofia Lord Cameron has called for an immediate pause to the fighting (Stoyan Nenov/PA)

“This new UK funding will help make giving birth safer and improve the lives of mothers and their new-born babies.

“We need to see an immediate pause in the fighting so we can secure the safe release of hostages, get more aid in, and allow organisations like UNFPA to do their vital work effectively.”

UNFPA executive director Natalia Kanem said: “In Gaza, the reality for women and girls is horrific – and getting worse each day.

“They have little to no access to essential health services and menstrual supplies, and many are forced to give birth in unsafe conditions that put their lives and those of their babies at risk.

An estimated 1.4 million Palestinians displaced by the war have taken refuge in Rafah (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman)
Israel Palestinians Rafah Photo Gallery An estimated 1.4 million Palestinians displaced by the war have taken refuge in Rafah (AP Photo/Mohammed Dahman) (Mohammed Dahman/AP)

“The support of the United Kingdom and other partners is vital to get lifesaving resources directly to women and girls in desperate need.”

There were an estimated 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza at the start of the war, with more than 180 births occurring each day and more than 5,500 women expected to deliver in the next month.

The Foreign Office repeated calls for Israel to “take steps” to “significantly increase the flow of aid into Gaza, including allowing prolonged humanitarian pauses”.

It comes after Lord Cameron said that Britain wants an “absolute guarantee” that UNRWA will not employ staff who may be willing to attack Israel amid an ongoing funding freeze.

Since Israel launched its offensive in response to Hamas’s attack, UNRWA has used its facilities across Gaza to shelter and help to hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has appealed to donor countries for a restoration of funding and new donations amid large-scale death and destruction.

Lord Cameron joined representatives from other nations at the UN general assembly in New York on Friday, where he rejected the idea that the UK shows “double standards” in its treatment of the crises in Ukraine and the Middle East.

“When we look across to what’s happening in Gaza, I absolutely agree that this is a terrible conflict. I want it to end as soon as it possibly can,” he said.

“But the crucial difference between the two: there was no October 7 in Russia. There was no excuse for Russia to launch this invasion.

“Whereas on the other hand, Israel does have the right to self-defence … the two situations are not the same.”

But he repeated his call for a “new political horizon for the Palestinian people” and a two-state solution, which Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes.

Israeli officials were to discuss next steps after the latest talks with the United States, Egypt and Qatar in search of a deal on pausing the fighting in Gaza, Mr Netanyahu said on Saturday.

A senior official from Egypt, which along with Qatar is a mediator between Israel and the Hamas militant group, said negotiators were waiting for Israel’s official response to a draft deal, the Associated Press reported.

The proposal would see the release of up to 40 women and older hostages held in Gaza in return for up to 300 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, mostly women, minors and older people.

Israel declared war after Hamas’ October attack, in which some 1,200 peoplewere killed about 250 taken hostage. More than 100 hostages remain in captivity in Gaza.

More than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in the following months.

Hunger and infectious diseases are spreading and 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been displaced, with about 1.4 million crowded into the southern city of Rafah on the border with Egypt.

MPs are set to again debate calling for a ceasefire in Gaza after a previous attempt deteriorated into angry recriminations and demands for the Commons Speaker to resign.

The SNP indicated it will take up Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle’s offer of a meaningful debate on a fresh motion which it said would push for UK Parliament to back concrete action to end the hostilities. It is not yet clear what form the new debate will take place.