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September 2014 issue
by Alison Baskerville
As the emergency department of the al-Shifa hospital becomes increasingly overcrowded, a steady stream of
pregnant Palestinian women is arriving in a building tucked behind the main hospital. Receiving between 25 to 50
women per day they are now having to redirect medical supplies to the intensive care unit.
Among the women is 28-year-old Hanan al-Mahessn. On the second day of the air strikes, her neighbour's home was
hit and destroyed. "I started to feel sick. Then the bleeding started," she told Al Jazeera. Hanan was rushed to the
hospital and lost three pints of blood. After going into surgery, her baby was delivered, but had died in the womb. The
doctors made the decision to tell her that her little girl was in a special care unit as they felt she was too ill to receive
the news. A day later she learnt the truth.
"My children are used to this war. They have grown up with the sound of bombs," said Mariam Guneed, 39, a mother
of eight. "We must have many children here, because we lose so many in the wars," Mariam reflects as she returns to
her room to sit and await the birth of her ninth child.
Less than a few kilometres from Shifa is the al-Awda hospital in the Jabalaya refugee camp of Gaza, one of the
poorest areas of the city. At just 30 minutes old Nisreen has been born into a country under siege. The sounds of
Israeli drones and bombardments can be heard above and the all too familiar whoosh of a Hamas rocket breaks the
silence of the city. In a few days time, she will leave the hospital with her mother into an area which has suffered a
large number of Israeli air strikes.
"Sometimes the women just don't want to leave. They know they are safe here. We don't turn them away, we keep
them as long as they want to stay," hospital director Dr Yousef Soueti said.
21/07/2014. Gaza. Imam Al Lulu (35) and her husband had fled a Syrian refugee camp to seek refuge and a safe
place to start a family within the Jabalaya refugee camp in Gaza. However, their daughter Sham who was less than
an hour old has been born into a conflict that has now claimed the lives of over 1,400 people.
The Al Shifa hospital maternity unit can expect upto 25 - 50 women over a 24 hour period. During the current conflict
medical supplies are now running short.
Mariam Guneed (39) a mother of eight is now expecting her ninth child.
"We must have many children here, because we lose so many in the wars." Reflects Mariam Guneed (39).
"We must have many children here, because we lose so many in the wars." Mariam Guneed
A notice board displays portraits of some of the new born babies in the hospital.
Less than an hour old, baby Eileen is held in the arms of her mother, 28 year old Amal Zalgoot. “She is my third child
and I am so happy to have made it to the hospital safely.” Eileen was born on the morning of the sixth day of the
conflict . According to the UN at least 364 Palestinian civilians have been killed, including at least 121 children and 59
“When the war started I felt sick.” Recounts 28 year old Hanan Al Mahessen as she lies in a hospital bed in the Al
Shifa hospital in the Gaza strip. “Then the bomb landed next to my home and the bleeding started.” As the ambulance
made it’s way to the hospital Hanan continued to bleed and was rushed to surgery where her baby girl was delivered
by caesarian. Unfortunately she was fully grown but died at birth. “Once I woke up I was like any mother, asking for my
baby. They told be she was in a special care unit, but I knew something was wrong.” Afraid for her condition and
severe blood loss Hanan was not told the news of her daughter’s death until a day after the surgery. “When they told
me, I felt like I couldn’t breath. I wanted to cry but I was too tired.”
One day old Afaff Sauda is held in the arms of her father, Omar. This is his first child and was delivered as the family
evacuated their home in the Bet Lahiya district of Gaza city. Once they are well enough they will have to join some of
the many families now living in UN schools across the city. UNRWA estimate that there are currently 102,788
displaced people across the strip.
One day old Afaff Sauda is held in the arms of her father, Omar (25).
The Al Awda hospital specialises in maternity care and supports the residents of the neighbouring Jabalaya refugee
camp, one of the poorest areas of Gaza city. The director of the hospital Dr Yousef Soueti (62) commented, "We have
seen an increase of women coming in with bleeding during pregnancy. In some cases they are coming here so that
we will keep them for 24 hours as it is safer than being at home."
The Al Awda hospital specialises in maternity care.
Shortly after birth most mothers and their children are sent home, often to areas that are being evacuated. Baby
Rezal Ahmad is just 2 weeks old and is brought in for a check up as her mother is worried about her weight. This is
Anwar Ahmad’s (20) first child.
Anwar holds the hand of her baby daughter Rezal as she is checked over in a health clinic near the Jabalaya refugee
camp in Gaza.
As the Israel/Gaza conflict intensifies the number of displaced people has now risen to over 102,788. At least 364
Palestinian civilians have been killed, including at least 121 children and 59 women. At least 3500 Palestinians have
been injured, including at least 1100 children and 608 women. (Source - UN)
"Children have stopped eating and sleeping. Their health is starting to suffer. Skin conditions, infection and gastro
problems are increasing" Commented Dr Hassan Zebadin (44), one of the many staff employed to help out by the
Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) who are now working tirelessly to provide basic medical supplies within the
UN schools to women who cannot return home after giving birth.