Thousands of pregnant people in Gaza are being forced to forgo necessary medical care, and some are miscarrying as a result of living in a war zone, according to recent reports.
There are about 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza (its total population is 2.3 million), and 5,500 are expected to give birth within the next month, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Niveen al-Barbari, 33, is one of them. She told Al Jazeera that her first child is due this month, and that she has gestational diabetes and high blood pressure but has been unable to contact her doctor since the war broke out. “Every day, I wonder how I’ll give birth and where,” al-Barbari told the outlet. “The bombs don’t stop, and no human, tree, or stone has been spared. We don’t know whose house will be destroyed or who will die. I just hope me and my child are safe.”
It has been well documented that Gaza is facing a humanitarian crisis, and that Palestinian health care workers and hospitals have been among the targets of the Israeli Defense Forces’ attacks. But pregnant Gazans like al-Barbari are facing their own set of particular challenges accessing care.
A family planning clinic that treated pregnant and postpartum people in Gaza was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike a day after the war broke out, according to the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Video from inside the clinic shared by IPPF on X (formerly known as Twitter) shows the floor strewn with rubble.
Wafa Abu Hasheish, a health care provider with the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association, which operated the bombed clinic, said that she “received calls from women having a miscarriage due to the bombings and gas, another going into labor, neighbors reaching out for help.”
Ammal Awadallah, executive director of PFPPA, said in a statement that the lives of pregnant women and newborns “hang in the balance” as Gaza awaits humanitarian aid.
A UNFPA representative told Mother Jones on Thursday afternoon that the agency has delivered magnesium sulfate—a drug used to treat preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure—to Gaza’s Ministry of Health. The spokesperson added the agency also has two plane loads of lifesaving reproductive health supplies, including enough individually packaged emergency DIY delivery kits—containing, among other things, a plastic sheet, scissors to cut an umbilical cord, and an instruction pamphlet on how to deliver a pregnancy—for half of the Gazans currently in their third trimester of pregnancy. But those supplies are currently being held up in Europe and it’s unclear when they’ll reach Gaza, the spokesperson said.
For pregnant Gazans like al-Barbari, help can’t come soon enough. “Every day I pray for the war to end in order to save my child from these missiles that have no mercy on anyone,” she told Al Jazeera.
Update, October 26: This story has been updated to include additional information from the UNFPA.