Expectant mothers in Gaza face dire situation

As attacks on the Gaza Strip intensify, the UNFPA representative for Palestine tells NHK World that Gazans are "facing unthinkable challenges."

Dominic Allen serves as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representative for Palestine. NHK World interviewed him on October 31.

Dominic Allen has served as the UNFPA representative for Palestine since July 2022.

Allen estimates that approximately 50,000 women are now pregnant in Gaza and there are about 150 births daily. He says, "The healthcare system, which is significantly crippled, is on the brink of collapse and they're facing unthinkable challenges."

A mother holds her baby at Shifa hospital in Gaza.

Footage provided by UNFPA shows the situation at Shifa hospital — one of Gaza's largest medical facilities — on October 26. Allen says an increasing number of babies are now being born prematurely and must be cared for in Shifa's neonatal intensive care unit. He's heard reports that the situation is similar at other hospitals across Gaza.

The stress of war is causing an increasing number of expectant mothers in Gaza to give birth prematurely and the infants must be cared for in neonatal intensive care units.

According to Allen, some doctors say expectant mothers have been affected by the fear of combat and the need to repeatedly evacuate.

"We've had reports of caesarean sections ... being performed without anesthesia," says Allen. He adds that water and medical supplies are also in extremely short supply.

NHK World also interviewed Kimura Mariko, who works for the nongovernmental organization Japan International Volunteer Center and is based in Jerusalem.

Based in Jerusalem, Kimura Mariko works for a Japanese NGO and is assisting women and children in Gaza.

Kimura is helping women and children in the Gaza Strip in collaboration with Gaza-based associations.

Kimura says she's been receiving messages from mothers in Gaza telling her about their difficult situations as they're forced to flee with their children to new locations. The messages typically say, "We've got a few bottles of water but no bread" and "My children eat only once a day."

Kimura received a video from a friend who just gave birth last month and is sheltering in central Gaza.

The footage shows a severely damaged neighboring house and Kimura's friend says the residents died in an air attack.

Kimura says, "These women are surviving under circumstances where they're prepared to die at any moment. If breast-feeding mothers are not in good health, it's difficult for them to provide milk."

She adds, "The longer this situation continues, the more their physical and mental health will deteriorate."