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ActionAid : The War and Starvation have made the lives of Pregnant Women and New Mothers living Hell

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Pregnant women in Gaza are going hungry amid severe food shortages, as the whole territory remains at high risk of famine. Mothers who have recently given birth at Al-Awda hospital in northern Gaza, which is run by ActionAid’s partner Al-Awda, said they struggled to find anything to eat during their pregnancies, with fruit and vegetables completely unavailable. 

Iman, a new mother who has just given birth by caesarean section at the hospital, told ActionAid: “I was pregnant at the beginning of the war and during the war we could not find food. During my pregnancy follow-up, I discovered that I was pregnant with twins. The other twin had died due to health conditions and movement from one place to another. I gave birth...by caesarean section but I fear that I will not find food [so I will be] able to breastfeed my baby. Women who have given birth need food and nourishment and this is nonexistent in the Gaza Strip. I fear that I will not be able to breastfeed the newborn due to the circumstances, as there is no food.”

A recent report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) found that 95% of the population in Gaza is currently experiencing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse. Pregnant women and new mothers are particularly impacted: according to a recent UN Women survey, 99 per cent of pregnant women said they faced challenges in accessing the nutritional products and supplements they needed, while 76 per cent reported suffering with anaemia. Meanwhile 55 per cent of breastfeeding mothers surveyed reported health conditions impeding their ability to breastfeed, and 99 per struggled to secure enough breastmilk for their babies.  

Dr Adnan Radi is a Consultant and Head of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at Al-Awda Hospital. He said: “Pregnant women are often unable to find anything to eat at all, and nutritional supplements that we used to give to pregnant women are unfortunately not available. Women do not get any food at all; no vitamins, minerals, iron, fruit, vegetables, or anything.

“These women suffer so much from the effects of war; its destruction, problems, and complications. Now, to add to this suffering, [there is] the problem of hunger, and [the approaching] famine...This is in addition to the problems that pregnant women already suffer from, such as lack of primary care, lack of [medical] follow-up for pregnant women, a sharp increase in the rate of [high-risk] pregnancies, complications [relating to] premature birth, an increase in miscarriages and problems such as infections, sepsis, bleeding, and others.”

Abeer, a new mother who has just given birth at Al-Awda Hospital, said: “I suffered a lot during pregnancy and throughout childbirth due to [the] lack of food and lack of nutrients. I am thinking about how I can nourish myself and my child due to the lack of vegetables and fruit...in the northern Gaza Strip.

 Distributing aid inside Gaza remains incredibly challenging due to the danger from land and air bombardments, a lack of fuel, damage to roads and access restrictions. As a result, the hunger crisis is growing, with more than one in five people currently forced to go entire days and nights without eating, according to the IPC report. 

As thousands of people flee Khan Younis after receiving new evacuation orders, ActionAid is warning that the dire humanitarian situation is set to deepen. With nowhere safe to go, people are being forced to find shelter in areas that are already crammed full of displaced people, putting even more strain on the limited resources available and increasing the risk of illness and disease spreading. 

Riham Jafari, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at ActionAid Palestine said:

“Pregnant women need a varied, nutritious diet to keep themselves and their babies healthy, but many women in Gaza have nothing to eat at all. The lack of food is having a major impact on their ability to give birth safely and to breastfeed their newborn babies, many of whom are born dangerously underweight. 

“After nine months of this crisis, the humanitarian situation is bleak. The displacement of up to a quarter of a million people from Khan Younis will only add further to the catastrophe. Gaza urgently needs more aid and a permanent ceasefire, now.”

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