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New Survey Highlights Urgent Need to Address Pregnant Women's Health in the Gaza Strip

MAP: Situation in Gaza Strip (as of 15 Jan 2009)

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Fast Facts on the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM, 08 April 2009 - A new survey examining living conditions in Gaza during the recent Israeli military offensive reveals that the conflict has prevented four in ten pregnant women who needed pre- or post-natal care during the crisis from receiving such services. One third of these women could not reach health facilities due to life-threatening dangers. Others were unable to do so because these facilities were either destroyed by shelling, packed with war casualties or had stopped working.

Conducted by the Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies of Norway, in cooperation with UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, the survey covered a sample of 2,020 Gaza households from 3 to 12 March 2009 - some six to eight weeks after the crisis, which ended on 17 January.

Results of the survey, released here today, shows that 12 per cent of all married women, aged 15-49, had been pregnant or had given birth during the three months before the survey. Most of these births, 77 per cent, took place at public hospitals, 8 per cent in private hospitals and 5 per cent in public clinics.

"These findings reaffirm the urgent need to rehabilitate Gaza's damaged maternal health facilities," said Hafedh Chekir, Director of UNFPA's Arab States Regional Office. "These pregnant women are the invisible victims of this crisis. Their lives should not be jeopardized while giving life."

According the survey, 34 per cent of young people 18 to 24 years old reported having frequent difficulties concentrating, 35 per cent said they had recurrent feelings of hopelessness, and another 35 per cent were so angry that they felt frequently being out of control.

Another recent UNFPA survey of Gaza health facilities revealed a 31 per cent rise in miscarriages admitted to maternity wards during the conflict, as well as an increase in obstetric complications. One hospital reported a 50 per cent jump in infant deaths.

Since the beginning of the crisis in late December 2008, and in response to its humanitarian consequences, UNFPA has provided medicines, intravenous fluids and disposable medical supplies to major hospitals in Gaza, in addition to supporting displaced women and their families. Along with partners in Gaza, UNFPA is also working to restore reproductive health care, including maternal and infant services, and providing psychosocial support to traumatized survivors.

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