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Pregnant Palestinian women are not a target

Pregnant Palestinian women are not a target

As Gaza passes 100 days of conflict, it is crucial to shed light on a vulnerable population that often remains unseen and unheard – pregnant women.

The United Nations has recently estimated that there are 50,000 women pregnant in Gaza, facing unimaginable challenges, with their health and the health of their unborn children hanging on a thin thread.

Because of the ongoing conflict, women in Gaza have virtually no access the emergency obstetric services they need for prenatal care, to give birth safely and care for their newborns. With 14 hospitals and 45 primary health care centers closed, women are being forced to give birth in shelters, in their homes, in the streets amid rubble, or in overwhelmed healthcare facilities. They’re subjected to terrible sanitation, and the risk of infection and medical complications is on the rise.

The lack of access to adequate care increases the risk of maternal deaths. Additionally, the psychological toll of the hostilities has led to a rise in stress-induced miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature births. The already challenging conditions for pregnant women in Gaza have been compounded by the escalation of violence, leaving them in desperate need of support.

Sadly, it isn’t only mothers who are affected by the lack of maternal services, babies are subjected to trauma in their mother’s wombs before they are even born.

During pregnancy, a woman's body undergoes significant hormonal changes which can transfer to their children. These hormones, like cortisol (stress hormone) and oxytocin (bonding hormone), can cross the placenta and reach the developing baby, which means in Gaza undergoing the stress of pregnancy during bombardment are sending out more cortisol to the placenta. Studies suggest that chronic exposure to high levels of cortisol can impact fetal brain development and increase the risk of certain mental health issues in children later in life.

This means unborn children are experiencing the effects of war before even coming into this world – something that no one deserve. Women have every right to a healthy pregnancy and unborn children have a right to grow inside a healthy womb space – something the trauma of war is stealing from women and children in Gaza.

When this happens on a mass scale as it is now by leaving no pregnant woman in Gaza untouched by the prospect of giving birth in a state of war, there lies a disproportionately high risk of a whole generation of babies growing up with severe trauma before they can even crawl. This is unacceptable.

Muslim Aid is renewing its calls for a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to protect the upcoming generation of Palestinian children, along with the rest of the civilian population in Gaza. Pregnant women and their unborn babies are not a target.

We are a faith-based British international charity that provides help to people who are victims of natural disasters or conflict or suffering from poverty, hunger, disease, homelessness, injustice, deprivation or lack of skills and economic opportunities.

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