Women undergo C-sections without pain medication, are still bleeding hours after giving birth, and many cannot get to hospitals because of the constant bombardment. They often have to give birth at home, in critical cases in shelters, or even on the street. This is the reality of pregnant Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip, where the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists is raging. There is a humanitarian crisis in the area.
Twenty-four-year-old Noor Hammad’s life changed forever after the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel. A day before the terrorists went on a rampage, she went to work as usual at a clinic in Deir al-Balah in the Gaza Strip, where she worked as a nutritional therapist. In the evening, she prepared dinner for herself and her husband. They were looking forward to the birth of their first child and were arranging an apartment where their daughter would grow up with them.
A few days later, however, their house was destroyed by air raids. Israel responded to the brutal attack by terrorists, in which 1,400 people died, by bombing and subsequently by ground invasion of the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in which Hamas rules. The goal is to completely destroy the terrorist movement. Before the invasion, Israel called on the inhabitants of the northern part of the Strip to move to the south, where the fighting is not taking place.
Hammadová and her husband also fled to the south. He lives in his sister’s house in the town of Chán Júnis, where he sleeps on the floor with twenty-five other family members. “I have no idea how I will bring my daughter into the world without a stable shelter and clothes. I have nothing at all,” she says in testimony for the British newspaper The Guardian.
There are currently around 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, of which about 5,500 are due to give birth in the coming weeks, according to the UN. At the same time, one third of the total 35 hospitals in Gaza are closed or destroyed, and 46 of the 72 health centers do not work.
“The baby has no pulse”
Islam Hussain gave birth to her second child hours after losing her first child in the bombing. She was ten days away from giving birth when she was having breakfast with her family and suddenly the roof of their house collapsed. The Israeli Air Force attacked the building next door and the tremors destroyed her house as well.
“I felt the rubble falling on me. I couldn’t move. I started screaming until the rescuers found me and took me to the hospital,” she describes in a confession given to journalists by the UN. Along with tens of thousands of other displaced civilians, he is now sheltering in the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, Shifa. She had a C-section there, the baby is fine.
The 30-year-old Palestinian Ala Bajaová learned that her child had died in the hospital after several days without medical care and food supply. “I was scared and shaking. The doctor told me that the baby has no pulse, that there is no hope. My fetus is dead and needs to be removed from the uterus,” she confided. She had an abortion after her house was bombed.
“They ordered us to evacuate. I ran and ran and thought I was going to trip because of the fear,” she says. Subsequently, she felt very nauseous, but she could not get to the hospital for a long time because the streets were not safe.
Drinking water and medicines are missing
Hospitals in Gaza are running out of blood and medicine supplies. The zone also faces a shortage of drinking water. According to the American newspaper The Washington Post, 2.2 million local residents survive on just three to eight liters of water per person per day.
Israel imposed a total blockade on the Gaza Strip after the attack by Hamas. He stopped the supply of water, electricity, food, medicine and fuel. However, he partially restored water supplies at the end of October. The supply of humanitarian aid became possible only after two weeks of war.
Humanitarian organizations and some foreign politicians are calling on Israel to allow the import of the fuel needed for the production of electricity in hospitals. However, the Jewish state argues that the fuel would not reach the hospitals anyway and that Hamas would use it for fighting.
In connection with the catastrophic situation of the population, calls for humanitarian ceasefires or pauses are also increasing. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses such a move until Hamas releases all 240 or so hostages. However, according to a statement from the White House on Thursday, Israel agreed to periodically suspend strikes in parts of the north for several hours to allow civilians to leave.
Aid organizations expect maternal mortality in Gaza to rise due to limited access to adequate care. In critical cases, Palestinian women give birth in shelters or even on the streets with midwives on the phone. “But only if the phones work,” emphasizes the representative of the UN Population Fund, Dominic Allen.
Women who manage to get to the hospital are sent home by doctors three hours after giving birth to make room for other pregnant or injured women. Surgical procedures are performed without sterilization or anaesthesia, and to this is added a psychological burden which, according to medical experts, can be fatal for pregnant women.
“Reproductive health stress often means miscarriage. The baby can be born dead or during premature birth,” warns the UN.
Video: Israelis discovered rocket launchers inside scouts’ paintings or on a children’s playground in Gaza (November 9, 2023)
Israelis have discovered rocket launchers inside the paintings of scouts or on a children’s playground | Video: Twitter/Israel Defense Forces