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About 150 women are giving birth in Gaza each day with no clean water or electricity

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Babies continue to be born in Gaza amid destruction and death. More than 2 million Palestinians live in Gaza, and the United Nations estimates about 150 births there each day. Here's NPR's Selena Simmons-Duffin.

SELENA SIMMONS-DUFFIN, BYLINE: Women in Gaza are giving birth in dramatic crisis conditions. NPR recently spoke to Dr. Mohammad Qandeel (ph) at the Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza. Last week, after two pregnant women were hit in an airstrike, he delivered their babies by emergency C-section with no power, using only the light of mobile phones. He says the hospital conditions are dire.

MOHAMMAD QANDEEL: We have no water. I don't have water to wash my hands. And this is the reality.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: From East Jerusalem, Dominic Allen is anxiously following the crisis in Gaza as a representative for the U.N. Population Fund, which focuses on reproductive health.

DOMINIC ALLEN: Our big concern is the 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza right now.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: They estimate 5,500 of those women will give birth in the next month. Many of them are on the move, fleeing from their homes and trying to find safety.

ALLEN: Every time you're moving, you're dodging bombs and the airstrikes with that pressure and stress of not only trying to find safety in that moment, but to think ahead to - where am I going to be able to give birth in a safe environment? What's the world that I'm bringing my unborn child into?

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Allen's U.N. agency is supporting a helpline for women and youth. But Ammal Awadallah, the executive director of the Palestinian Family Planning and Protection Association, says it's unclear how many people can reach those resources given the lack of electricity and internet. She says hospitals are telling pregnant women they can't receive care unless they're fully dilated and ready to deliver.

AMMAL AWADALLAH: With the overcrowded hospitals, women and their newborns are dismissed only a few hours after delivery.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Once babies have been born, the challenges continue. One of Allen's colleagues is a reproductive health specialist on the ground in Gaza who was regularly in touch with patients before communications were cut off there.

ALLEN: She is receiving phone calls from pregnant or new mothers, and they're asking some of the most basic questions around - my child's been born. I don't have access to clothes. What do I wrap my baby in to keep that child warm?

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Allen says a major concern is clean water. Everyone needs water to drink. It's essential for healthy pregnancies, and mothers who breastfeed need to drink extra water to be able to produce milk for their babies.

ALLEN: A woman we spoke - we - had babies at 7 or 8 months old, I think. And she's described how she's no longer able to breastfeed because of the challenges of the situation right now.

SIMMONS-DUFFIN: Allen echoes the U.N. secretary general's call for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

Selena Simmons-Duffin, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Selena Simmons-Duffin
Selena Simmons-Duffin reports on health policy for NPR.
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