Women in Gaza Are Experiencing Miscarriages as Birth Facilities Are ‘Rapidly Dwindling’
There are 84,000 pregnant women in Gaza facing a high risk of complications amid constant bombardment and a medical system on the brink of "actual collapse.”Entertainment
Wafa Abu Hasheish, a healthcare provider with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association (PFPPA)—a member association of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF)—has been providing care to patients in northern Gaza since Israel waged war on the region last week. In a statement shared on Tuesday, Hasheish says she’s helped several patients who seemed to be experiencing miscarriage, including two cases where “there was no movement for the fetus and the mother had hypotension, bleeding, and back pain.”
In a press release shared with Jezebel, the IPPF reports that pregnant women in northern Gaza “are miscarrying pregnancies due to stress and shock, and the availability of medical facilities to birth safely in Gaza’s already overwhelmed healthcare system is rapidly dwindling.” On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 84,000 women in Gaza are currently pregnant and at risk of complications due to Israel’s blockade cutting off humanitarian aid, including desperately needed medical supplies, spokesperson Margaret Harris told CNN.
Currently, there are “78 cubic meters of health supplies” sitting stagnant on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing—Gaza’s only passage to Egypt. WHO’s director-general reportedly had an agreement with Egypt’s president to open the crossing but it remains closed due to Israel’s continued airstrikes. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that “there is no safe passage that has been granted.”
On Monday, Israel agreed to work on a plan that would permit a limited amount of medical aid and humanitarian relief to enter through the southern border but didn’t specify a time frame for it to be distributed. Even still, it’s “unclear exactly how this aid will reach the more than 9,600 injured and the nearly 600,000 internally displaced people in central and southern Gaza,” according to IPPF. Israel says it will maintain the blockade until Hamas releases Israeli hostages, which Hamas has reportedly agreed to if Israel stops the airstrikes.
IPPF further reported that an estimated 19,000 pregnant women remain in the northern part of Gaza—the area Israel directed to evacuate south on October 13. The evacuation order was sharply condemned by WHO and Doctors Without Borders. Ammal Awadallah, executive director of PFPPA, called the situation for pregnant Gazans “devastating and horrific” in a statement. Even if Israel eases the blockade, none of the aid is expected to reach northern Gaza.
About 10% of the 84,000 pregnant women are expected to give birth next month, all while the Israeli military continues to strike the narrow, highly dense strip of land. “Babies don’t care about bombs, they come when they come,” Harris told CNN.
Over the last several days, health organizations in Gaza have claimed the Israeli government is targeting hospitals, medics, and ambulances. Most recently, on Tuesday, an Israeli airstrike hit Al Ahli Arab Hospital at the center of Gaza, resulting in at least 500 deaths, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. (This adds to the estimated 3,000 reported deaths of Gazans—half of whom are under 18—since Oct. 7, in retaliation for the Hamas attacks that killed an estimated 1,300 Israelis and saw dozens more taken hostage.)
According to the United Nations on Monday, “fuel reserves at Gaza’s hospitals have been almost totally depleted,” and the Associated Press notes that this places thousands at risk of imminent death. The Palestinian Ministry of Health stated on Tuesday that its hospital system has entered a stage of “actual collapse” due to electricity cuts and fuel shortages. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society accuses Israel of deliberately bombing medical facilities. Last week Human Rights Watch reported Israel bombed a children’s hospital with white phosphorus.
Also speaking to CNN, United Nations Population Fund’s representative for Palestine, Dominic Allen, expressed concern for how anyone could safely carry a pregnancy under the conditions women in Gaza currently face. “Imagine going through that process in those final stages and your last trimester before giving birth, with possible complications, without clothing, without hygiene, support,” Allen said, “and not sure about what the next day, next hour, next minute will bring for themselves and for their unborn child.”