• 37 mothers have been killed each day since October 7th, a rate of 1 mother every 2 hours

  • Approximately 60,000 pregnant women in Gaza have little-to-no access to adequate prenatal health services

  • At least 183 women are giving birth in Gaza every day and most do not have access to midwives, doctors, or healthcare facilities during or after delivery

  • Only 2 of the 12 partially functioning hospitals in Gaza are able to provide maternity services from a total of 36 hospitals that were functioning before October 7

  • As of December, over 155,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women were at high risk of malnutrition- this number would have risen exponentially since then

In Gaza, pregnant women and mothers are engaged in a battle for survival whilst struggling to protect and nourish themselves and their babies. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is sounding the alarm on the severe effects nearly six months of conflict have had on these Palestinian women, especially with the critical shortages of food, water, healthcare, and the threat of imminent famine.

Pregnant women in Gaza face hunger, Israeli bombardment, displacement and the constant threat of death or illness from injuries, infections or disease. Many women have had to give birth without any form of medical aid and there are credible reports of women forced to undergo C-sections without anesthesia.

Doctors have reported that beyond facing starvation, dehydration, and direct exposure to armed conflict, stress and shock are causing some pregnant women to experience premature labor in a context where emergency care is beyond reach, often resulting in the death of their babies before reaching full term. This tragic outcome can be attributed to the traumatic experiences of witnessing their homes bombed, experiencing displacement and fear, and the wholesale destruction of Gaza’s healthcare system. Pregnant women and newborn babies have repeatedly been forced to evacuate hospitals and aid workers have been reporting a major increase in premature births due to the extreme levels of stress.

Arvind Das, IRC Team Lead for the Gaza Crisis says, 

“In the hospitals where our Emergency Medical Team worked in Gaza, maternity services were once a prominent feature. Unfortunately this is no longer the case due to the surge in critical trauma patients needing attention owing to injuries caused by airstrikes. There are simply not enough medical personnel, equipment or supplies to attend to other cases such as pregnant women. This means that women are giving birth outside of hospitals - among ruins, in cars or tents, or in overcrowded shelters with barely 1.5 square meters of space. There is a complete lack of privacy and a lack of proper medical care, including pre and postnatal care.

“Hearing doctors’ stories about women delivering still-born fetuses in the hospitals where we worked is devastating. Health organisations have reported a threefold increase in miscarriage rates among women in Gaza since October 7. Doctors shared their feelings of helplessness with me. The toll of this conflict is enormous, affecting not just the current but also future generations deeply.” 

Hospitals continue to face serious shortages of electricity, medication, medical equipment, food, and personnel due to Israeli restrictions on aid entering and moving freely and safely around Gaza, significantly compromising the provision of essential care. This situation is exacerbated by substantial damage to hospital infrastructure and facilities. Continous airstrikes and military ground operations have also led to the evacuation of healthcare personnel and patients, and restricted their access to hospitals.

The IRC underscores the urgent need for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2728, which calls for an immediate ceasefire. An immediate and lasting ceasefire is the only way to protect civilians, including vulnerable populations such as women and children, and to enable the scale up of humanitarian assistance across Gaza, including for pregnant women and mothers. Israel must end its arbitrary denial of food, water, fuel and essential medicines into and around Gaza. It is imperative for all parties to facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian aid through all possible land routes and entry points into Gaza, and ensure the release of all hostages.

Providing critical emergency health care has been one of IRC’s priorities in responding to the crisis in Gaza. The IRC has deployed four successive Emergency Medical Teams in partnership with Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) to provide specialised and surge medical services. We have also supported three mobile health teams operated by Juzoor for Health and Social Development, providing health services in three shelter clusters in northern Gaza since February.