Midwife says pregnant women in great danger in Gaza

STORY: At the Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza, midwife Samah Qeshta was in the middle of a 24-hour shift when she helped deliver twins to a mother who says she has been displaced after an airstrike destroyed her home.

Qeshta, herself nine months pregnant when this footage was recorded in early November, says the war has severely strained hospital services for pregnant women, and she has seen increases in premature births, miscarriages and stillbirths since the conflict began.

"In the days before the war, we used to have in a period of 24 hours between 15-20 births. Now, with the war, the number of births has increased to 35-40 cases in 24 hours, maybe more. And there’s been cases of miscarriage and stillbirth, apart from the births. The number of cases has increased because the number of displaced people has increased. The situation has gotten worse and the work has increased. It’s become too much for our capabilities."

The director of the maternity and nursery department, Waleed Abu Hattab, told Reuters that the 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza are in a health crisis – a number confirmed by U.N. agencies.

"There has been a large increase in cases of miscarriage. When we compare it with the period before the war, we find that it has at least doubled. And therefore, unfortunately, there has been an increase in premature births, there’s been an increase in depression among pregnant women, and all of this is one of the effects of the period of war."

Hattab said the hospital could only offer limited support for pregnant women and new mothers as it contends with a lack of medical staff and shortages of fuel for power.

He says all pregnant women are at risk because of the collapse of primary health care and overburdened hospitals. At Nasser Hospital, he says operating rooms intended for cesarean sections are being used to treat the injured from bombings.

After Reuters first interviewed her in early November, Qeshta has since given birth to a daughter. A day after the delivery, an ambulance dropped her as near to her home as it could, as streets were blocked because of the damage from air strikes.

When she’s recovered, Qeshta plans to return to work in the maternity ward at the Nasser Hospital. If the war is over.