As we sit here and witness the ongoing distress in Gaza, the scenes of relentless suffering unfold, forcing us to confront the depths of despair. For pregnant women in Gaza, their anguish is magnified twofold in the midst of this harrowing reality.
With an estimated 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, including first-time mothers, and over 180 births occurring daily, the weight of their pain is etched into our consciousness — a stark reminder of the human toll exacted by these torturous circumstances.
As the IDF unlawfully targets medical staff and facilities, including the main hospital, Al Shifa, the consequences are devastating. These brutal attacks have triggered power outages and a shortage of medical supplies, resulting in numerous deaths, including newborns in incubators. Beyond the immediate loss of lives, the damage to medical resources has incomprehensible effects on maternal health in Gaza.
Compounding the crisis, health facilities face relentless bombardment. Al Hilo Hospital, a main maternity facility, was shelled on November 1, contributing to over a third of hospitals and two-thirds of primary healthcare clinics closing due to fuel shortages. The remaining facilities, overwhelmed and grappling with critical shortages of clean water, medicine, and supplies, struggle to provide essential care in this desperate situation.
While we commend these women for their unwavering resilience, faith, and strength, a pressing question looms: How does such commendation disperse the palpable dangers these women confront daily? At what point do we acknowledge that what they are enduring is more than a struggle? For it is a gradual descent into a slow, agonizing death.
It’s time we confront the realities these women are dealing with beyond the ceaseless bombing and displacement. The infuriating dangers they face as they step into motherhood and those who don’t make it to that cherished threshold. It is a call to action, to cast aside silence and be the voices these women so desperately need.
Struggles of Palestinian pregnant women amidst the war in Gaza
The challenges these women endure, along with the constant fear of harm from the IDF, are heart-wrenching. The uncertainty of whether the next bomb might be the last, the risk of deadly diseases, and the fear of complications during childbirth weigh heavily on their hearts. It’s agonizing not knowing if their child will make it through, all while facing the threat of infections in unsanitary conditions that could jeopardize both mother and baby. What would normally be a moment of bliss and celebration has now turned into a waiting game of dread and calamities to befall them.
Beyond the physical challenges, the psychological toll on pregnant women living in a war zone is immeasurable. High stress levels can lead to complications during pregnancy and impact the long-term health of both the mother and the baby.
Limited access to proper nutrition has serious effects on both the pregnant woman and the developing fetus. Especially in the crucial first three months, good nutrition is vital for healthy growth and spotting any potential issues. Malnutrition raises the risk of premature birth, stillbirths, and miscarriage, highlighting the urgent need for support and proper care for expectant moms in these tough circumstances.
With a health system in collapse, some have lost contact with their prenatal care clinics or doctors, being displaced and unable to access these crucial medical services, as a result suffering from miscarriages.
Challenges faced by women in Gaza during childbirth
Due to the scarcity of medical supplies, some women have no option but to undergo a C-section without anesthesia. They endure the distressing experience of watching their bellies being cut open, feeling every moment of the process. Sharp objects cutting into their bodies are felt and seen, with many operations conducted under phone flashlights amid the intense IDF bombing that shakes the hospitals.
These women, already coming in with amputations and injuries from bombings, receive gauze to bite on as a makeshift means to ease pain. Their support systems, typically family, are either deceased or being treated for wounds, leaving them to face this ordeal alone. Pregnant women rescued from rubble often suffer placental injuries, leading to the tragic loss of either the baby, the mother, or, in many cases, both.
Pregnant women, being more vulnerable to complications from diseases due to changes in the immune system, face even graver challenges. Some are compelled to give birth in shelters, homes, or on the streets amid rubble, or in overwhelmed healthcare facilities where sanitation is worsening, and the risk of infection and medical complications is escalating.
Challenges that Gazan women face after delivery
Delivering the baby is not the end of the crisis, many Gazan babies are born prematurely, needing constant access to incubators. The blackout of electricity in hospitals has put these infants in imminent danger, with some tragically losing their lives due to this disgraceful action. Moreover, the lack of water leaves these mothers in severe dehydration, making it challenging to produce milk to feed their babies.
Despite staggering physical tolls, these women face the monumental task of protecting their newborns and navigating a world that overlooks their struggles.
Witnessing violence and experiencing loss can significantly impact mental health. Having to mourn and welcome new life simultaneously adds another layer of emotional strain.
Even those who give birth and find a secure shelter face mental health challenges. Lack of nutrition, especially post-birth, significantly affects mothers.
For those who reach health centers, the situation is critical. Sent home shortly after delivery, they lack food and clean water.
Additionally, young girls experiencing their monthly cycles or reaching their coming of age may struggle with hygiene, lacking access to menstrual hygiene products. The worsening sanitation increases the risk of infections, presenting a dangerous situation for these vulnerable women.
Paying attention to the outcries of women in Gaza
A mother’s concerns are universal — the anxiety of leaving children behind when the world outside is unkind. As self-proclaimed advocates parade themselves in the name of feminism, we must ask: Where is the outcry for our own? Do the women and babies in Gaza not make it to your agenda?
The silence is deafening, reflecting a painful truth about the values guiding your advocacy. It’s a constant reminder that, to some, we’re seen as lesser human beings. The next time you decide to preach about women’s rights, let’s ask and never stop asking: Where were your voices for the women in Gaza?
As Shaun King wisely said, injustice is never permanent; it always ends. The evil men and women causing harm will be held accountable — some in this lifetime, but all in the next.