UNFPA in Gaza

No Shelter from the Storm -- Even for Pregnant Mothers and Newborns

16 January 2009

"There is not a single place in Gaza that is safe," said Pamela Delargy, Chief of UNFPA's Humanitarian Response Unit on 16 January, three weeks into the military action in Gaza. "Not homes, not shelters, nowhere.  People don't know where to go.� Pregnant women and newborns are particularly vulnerable.

The military assault on Gaza has intensified, with widespread air and ground attacks that continued to displace civilians and prevent safe movement, Delargy reported. UN facilities and vehicles were hit, as well as a number of health facilities. Promised ‘humanitarian corridors’ did not materialize. Israeli authorities continued to restrict types and amounts of humanitarian supplies going in to Gaza. Some UNFPA supplies got through but metal items such as wheelchairs and autoclaves were not allowed in.

The recent shelling and burning of the UN Relief and Works Agency warehouse caused huge losses of humanitarian supplies. However, UNFPA had moved medical supplies to the Ministry of Health before so those stocks were safe. 

Because of closures, destruction of livelihoods and the deterioration of infrastructure, pregnancy and childbirth presented special risks to mothers and their babies even before the current crisis in Gaza. These risks are now augmented by the lack of access of women to maternity care facilities, and by the use of many such facilities as surgical rooms to treat the wounded. This has catastrophic consequences for the 170 women who give birth every day -- particularly the estimated 30 women who require Caesarean sections each day.