Struggle, Struggle, Struggle: Navigating Motherhood in Gaza's Turmoil

My knowledge cut-off date is January 2022. As of that time, Hamas was designated as a terrorist organization by several countries and organizations, including the United States, Israel, the European Union, Canada, and others.

My knowledge cut-off date is January 2022. As of that time, Hamas was designated as a terrorist organization by several countries and organizations, including the United States, Israel, the European Union, Canada, and others.

Amidst the chaos of war, hospitals in Gaza have become targets, with Al-Shifa hospital, the largest in the enclave, recently coming under attack by the Israeli military. These raids, purportedly aimed at thwarting terrorist activity, have left equipment damaged, healthcare workers detained, and essential services disrupted, according to Gaza health officials.

In such dire circumstances, pregnant women are seeking refuge and treatment at a health clinic in Deir al Balah, located in central Gaza. Operated by the U.S.-based aid organization Project Hope, the clinic provides vital care to up to 60 pregnant women daily. Shockingly, nearly a quarter of these women are malnourished, highlighting the severity of the humanitarian crisis.

Dr. Maram Badwan, the lead physician at the clinic, describes the situation as increasingly dire, with many patients residing in makeshift shelters without access to basic necessities like electricity and clean water. Common ailments among patients include hepatitis A, anemia, lice, and scabies, underscoring the desperate need for medical assistance.

Despite facing immense challenges, the clinic strives to offer essential services, including medication, prenatal vitamins, and free ultrasounds. Pregnant women from all over Gaza flock to the clinic, often making it their first doctor's visit during pregnancy.

One such patient, Rhonda Abd Al-Razeq, a 26-year-old pregnant woman displaced from her home in northern Gaza, echoes the sentiments of countless others as she grapples with the daily struggle for survival. Having contracted hepatitis A and witnessing her family members suffer from various infections due to unsanitary living conditions, she laments the lack of cleanliness and access to clean water, essential for preventing diseases in such precarious circumstances.

During her consultation with Dr. Badwan, Abd Al-Razeq received sobering news: she was not only malnourished but also hypertensive. Despite these challenges, the ultrasound revealed a reassuring sign—the strong heartbeat of her baby boy. This revelation brought a glimmer of joy to Abd Al-Razeq's otherwise fraught existence, where concerns about the safety and circumstances of childbirth loom large.

In Gaza, safe birthing spaces are scarce, leaving pregnant women like Abd Al-Razeq with few options. For those unable to reach the dwindling number of hospital beds safely, delivering in overcrowded shelters becomes the only choice. Arvind Das, who recently led a medical team into Gaza, witnessed firsthand the harrowing conditions faced by pregnant women, with some forced to give birth in shelters packed with tens of thousands of people.

There is no privacy. There is no dignity," Das lamented, his voice tinged with emotion. "Pregnant women are expected to deliver in cramped spaces, often with just 1.5 meters of room.

In response to this dire situation, organizations like CARE are training women to serve as midwives, offering vital assistance to expectant mothers in shelters. Sherehan Abdel Hadi, who recently gave birth to her son Sanad, reflects on the challenges ahead. Despite the joy of childbirth, she grapples with the harsh reality of providing for her newborn amidst ongoing conflict and deprivation.

Fleeing from Gaza City while pregnant, Abdel Hadi now resides with her family in Deir El Balah, facing constant fear from airstrikes and bombardments. Their crowded living conditions exacerbate the struggle, with Sanad's constant crying adding to the stress. Inadequate access to essentials like hot water and proper clothing heightens Abdel Hadi's anxiety, fearing for her son's health in such precarious circumstances.

Rua al-Sindavi, a 24-year-old expectant mother, faces the daunting prospect of giving birth in a tent due to the lack of adequate medical facilities. Forced to relocate to Rafah in southern Gaza as a result of Israeli attacks, Sindavi, pregnant with triplets, is among many women grappling with malnutrition amid severe food shortages in the city.

Meanwhile, in Rafah, Likaa Saleh struggles to feed her young daughter, Manal. With limited resources, Saleh resorts to boiling potatoes as a makeshift meal. Through gentle persuasion, she manages to calm her crying baby and feed her the soft potato, offering a brief moment of relief amidst the constant worry about her daughter's well-being and the uncertain future they face.

The plight of mothers like Sindavi and Saleh underscores the immense challenges endured by families in Gaza, where access to basic necessities and healthcare is severely compromised by ongoing conflict and humanitarian crises.

In conclusion, the stories of Rua al-Sindavi, Likaa Saleh, and countless other mothers in Gaza shed light on the profound hardships faced by families amidst conflict and humanitarian crises. From expecting triplets in makeshift tents to struggling to feed their babies due to food shortages, these women exemplify resilience in the face of adversity. Yet, their narratives also underscore the urgent need for immediate humanitarian aid and lasting solutions to alleviate the suffering of mothers and children in Gaza. As the world bears witness to their struggles, it's imperative that concerted efforts are made to provide essential resources, medical care, and a path towards peace and stability for the people of Gaza. Only through collective action and unwavering commitment can we hope to build a better future for generations to come in this embattled region.