Catastrophic Healthcare Situation
In Gaza, Palestine, the healthcare system is in a state of crisis due to ongoing hostilities. Yasmine Ahmed, a midwife at Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest medical facility, describes the working conditions as catastrophic, with a severe shortage of basic necessities like water. The escalating conflict has led to a near-collapse of the health-care system, with shortages of fuel, medicine, and supplies. Hospitals and ambulances have been targeted, complicating the transport of the injured.
The World Health Organization reports over 235 attacks on health-care infrastructure since October 7. More than a third of Gaza’s 35 hospitals and nearly two-thirds of its health clinics have shut down. The remaining facilities are operating with less than a third of their staff and even fewer resources. The lack of fuel has forced Al Quds hospital in Gaza city to shut down key services, and Al Awda hospital, the sole provider of maternity services in northern Gaza, is on the brink of closure.
Dr. Nasser Fouad Bulbul, head of the premature and neonatal care wards at Al-Shifa Hospital, notes a rise in premature births due to the bombing of homes, often requiring emergency deliveries in dire circumstances. Approximately 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza are facing limited access to essential health services, with about 5,500 expected to give birth in the next month amidst this humanitarian disaster.
Harrowing Experiences of Pregnant Women
Sondos, a 26-year-old heavily pregnant woman, was injured in an explosion and underwent surgery and an emergency Caesarean section at Al-Hilo hospital, now functioning as a maternity ward. She named her newborn daughter after her sister, who was killed on the same day. UNFPA Regional Director for the Arab States, Laila Baker, highlights the extreme conditions pregnant women are facing, with surgeries being performed without basic necessities like anesthesia or clean water.
Raghda Talaat Harb, 37, overdue for her pregnancy, is waiting for a Caesarean section but faces delays due to the overwhelming number of cases and lack of anesthesia. Walaa, 35, nine months pregnant, is also waiting for medical attention at Al-Hilo hospital after a bomb destroyed her home, causing her injuries.
Dire Need for Humanitarian Aid
The crisis has led to casualties and displaced people seeking medical care and shelter in health facilities. However, the increasing electricity cuts threaten the operation of surgical equipment and incubators. The Ministry of Health in Gaza reports that around 70% of the over 9,700 killed since the crisis began are women and children. One in four of Gaza’s 2.2 million people are women of reproductive age who urgently need access to reproductive health services.
Ms. Baker emphasizes the efforts to protect young girls in overcrowded centers with minimal hygiene. Almost 1.5 million people have been displaced, with hundreds of thousands in shelters at risk of disease outbreaks. The situation has led to a rise in gender-based violence risks.
After a month of hostilities, UNFPA has been able to deliver two truckloads of reproductive health supplies to Gaza, including medicine and kits for safe births. However, the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire is urgent, as emphasized by UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem, who calls for an end to the conflict after 30 days of intensifying bombardments.