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Mothers tell of their babies’ deaths in Gaza as conditions worsen

24 June 2024

PCHR, Christian Aid

A woman in Gaza with her daughter, born on 14 January: “I had to take the risk and walk in the middle of the night with my husband raising a white flag. We walked for around half an hour, but it felt like hours. I was feeling pain for having to walk for so long, and severe labour that increased amid fears of being targeted. Thank God, we safely made it to al-Sahabah Clinic, and, within only five minutes, I delivered my baby. I cannot even think how I might have given birth to my baby girl on the street, and I still have nightmares about it”

A woman in Gaza with her daughter, born on 14 January: “I had to take the risk and walk in the middle of the night with my husband raising a white flag. We walked for around half an hour, but it felt like hours. I was feeling pain for having to walk for so long, and severe labour that increased amid fears of being targeted. Thank God, we safely made it to al-Sahabah Clinic, and, within only five minutes, I delivered my baby. I cannot even think how I might have given birth to my baby girl on the street, and I still have nightmares about it”

PREGNANT women in Gaza are enduring “catastrophic” conditions as lack of medical care is causing injuries during labour and miscarriages late in pregnancy, according to testimony collected by a Palestinian human-rights charity.

Testimonies from pregnant women were released on Monday by Christian Aid, on behalf of its partner in Gaza, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR).

Women interviewed in Gaza City and Rafah spoke of babies dying in the womb, after birth, or being injured during delivery. PCHR’s report said that pregnant women felt “in a race against death”.

One woman, 19-year-old Nesmah Osamah Hamo, told of her son falling to the ground when she gave birth prematurely in the bathroom of the house where she was staying. The infant suffered a head trauma.

Another, Israa Kamal Mahmoud Abu Nahel, aged 34, said that she had waited nine years to become pregnant, but miscarried after walking hours to flee bombing. “When I knew I was pregnant,” she said, “I cried a lot out of joy, but the war came and killed my happiness.”

There are an estimated 60,000 pregnant women in Gaza, but only three hospitals are able to assist women in labour, according to the UN. About 50,000 of the pregnant women are in shelters, with little access to food or health care, of whom about 5000 are due to give birth in the next month.

Ruwaida Waleed al-Nazli’s son Waleed was delivered in hospital by emergency caesarean, but he died three days later when bombing around the hospital cut off the neonatal unit’s oxygen supply.

Infants are also dying for lack of medical follow-up after operations. One four-month-old died in a shelter after he developed sepsis following a hernia operation. His mother told aid workers that she each day she goes to lie prostrate beside his grave.

Another mother, Dana Hassan, lost her baby when, at nine months pregnant, she was exposed to white phosphorus in Al Remal, Gaza City. “[The doctor told me] many women like me lost their babies for the same reason,” she said. “I was so sad and worn out mentally, as the due date of my baby marked his death.”

White phosphorus is used in grenades and artillery shells and causes burns on contact, and damages the kidneys, liver, and nervous system of those exposed to it.

One of the lawyers for the PCHR who collected the testimonies from women, Aya Alwakeel, said: “They were very eager for the world to hear about their suffering. They said that, finally, someone who cares and listens to our suffering has come.”

Two lawyers from PCHR who collected evidence were killed in an air strike before the report could be published.

The Christian Aid programme manager for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, Julie Mehigan, said: “The unimaginable devastation of losing a baby in the womb, during childbirth, or after delivery, is a horror being experienced daily by women across Gaza. The only way to stop the killing of innocent children and save lives is for an immediate and permanent ceasefire.

“Until the UK Government suspends arms sales to Israel, it may well be complicit in the deaths of babies and the heartbreak of their mothers.”

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