There are 155,000 pregnant women and new mums in Gaza. The last maternity hospital has stopped taking patients.

There is only one functioning maternity hospital left in the Gaza strip.

The Al Halal Al Emirati Maternity Hospital is situated in Rafah, which has in recent months become Palestinians last refuge from the Israeli offensive. More than half of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have been sheltering there making it twice as densely populated as New York City.

Israel, who are trying to recover 132 hostages being held in Gaza after being kidnapped on October 7, says Hamas militants are hiding there. They've started to invade the area in the past week, forcing thousands of displaced families to once again flee.

Watch: Healthcare workers continue to provide care, with skeleton crews and dwindling supplies. ⁣ 

Video via AJ

As Reuters reported, Emirati had been handling some 85 out of a daily total of 180 births in Gaza before the escalation of fighting on Rafah's outskirts. But the hospital is overwhelmed, understaffed, under-resourced and operating in increasingly unsanitary conditions.

On May 8 they announced they can no longer take in any new patients after Israel's closure of the Rafah border crossing, which is preventing the delivery of humanitarian and medical aid.


According to the United Nations Population Fund or UNFPA, 155,000 women in Gaza are currently pregnant or breastfeeding small babies. For those waiting to give birth, their futures are now uncertain. Their best bet is likely the makeshift health facilities that are being set up by humanitarian partners and charities.

Bridget Rochios is a midwife from America. She arrived at Emirati on May 1 to help alongside the Canadian medical charity The Glia Project, who currently have eight personnel on the ground in Gaza.

What struck her about Rafah was the sound of children. As she shared in a video filmed just outside the hospital, "it's essentially a playground. There are 600,000 children in Rafah and you can hear it, it's constant. They are so cute and they are running around and playing and making the most of this. But there are so many children."


Bridget has seen some incredibly upsetting things in her short time in Gaza. For many of the women arriving to deliver, it's the first time they've seen a healthcare provider in their pregnancies. As Bridget told Time Magazine, "There are three women in one delivery room, and after they give birth, they’re moved over to postpartum for a couple of hours."

She is delivering babies with no soap, gloves or scissors.

"We're seeing babies being born with congenital anomalies and the mother had no idea. We're seeing mothers who have lost so much; they have lost their family, their homes, their lives. We are seeing mothers who are too small, too skinny too thin to be full term in pregnancy. We're seeing babies that are too small and too little to be full term."

Most healthcare supplies going into Gaza have been getting in with healthcare workers coming in to volunteer.

"The crossing of this [Rafah] border means a large exacerbation of the siege in Gaza and is a direct and imminent threat to the healthcare of all people but in particular to pregnant and birthing people and newborns," said Bridget. 

"If Israel continues to attack Rafah, Israel will be massacring children. Anything beyond a ceasefire will be a direct attack on children, on pregnant people, on birthing people, on newborns, on babies and on all innocent Palestinians". 


On May 11, the UN estimated that if Israel didn't reopen the Rafah border crossing, they'd run out of fuel within 48 hours. 

As The Glia Project, an international humanitarian organisation, wrote in a statement, "if fuel does not enter immediately, the lights will turn off. Generators will stop running. Incubators will fail. Babies will die... that's 25 babies whose lives are at immediate risk if these incubators are shut off."

In late 2023, staff were forced to abandon their patients at the al-Nasr Children's hospital in Gaza's north. 

As several publications including CNN and The Washington Post reported, newborns were discovered weeks later "mummified" in their beds. 

"The global community cannot allow this to happen again," said Glia's Director of Development, Dr Dorotea Gucciardo.

"A full-scale offensive on Rafah can not take place. All states with influence must do everything within their power to prevent it to protect civilian lives," said UN Human Rights Chief Volker Turk in a video just yesterday.


Baby Yahya has been living in Emirati hospital for about five months.

His mum gave birth to him in a taxi outside a hospital in northern Gaza that was being evacuated. She gave her son to the doctor who delivered him and begged him to take him to safety.


Yahya was brought to Rafah and has been raised by the NICU staff and their children. Up until two weeks ago, they didn't know whether his parents survived but as Glia international shared this week, they are alive. But they are stuck in the north and cannot reach their little boy.

"He is an incredibly joyous little boy... They have had formula for him but now they are struggling to find any food for them. Baby Yahya represents just one child out of at least 17,000 that are unaccompanied in Gaza because their parents are either dead or missing," Dr Gucciardo said in a video pleading for a ceasefire.

Zena is currently sheltering in Rafah.

In a TikTok she shared that "nowhere is safe in Rafah now".

@zena.abu.alouf LET THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS, SPREAD THE WORD #fyp #foryoupage #viral #fyppppppppppppppppppppppp #foryou ♬ original sound - Zena🍉

Melek al-Najjar is one of thousands living in a tent city in Rafah with her children, without food, clean water or basic needs after they were displaced from their home.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said Sunday around 300,000 people have now fled these makeshift shelters in recent days, after the Israel Defense Force issued an evacuation order.


"People are fleeing for safety, knowing there was no place safe, and there are no tents and no people to care for them," Tamer Al-Burai, a resident from Gaza, who had been sheltering in Rafah told Reuters.

Image: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images.

Israel's military said on Sunday it had opened a new crossing in northern Gaza, called "Western Erez", to transfer humanitarian aid to the strip. But it's on the opposite end to Rafah, and as The Washington Post reports, "it can handle only a fraction of the traffic that flows through the southern crossings." And besides, the north need the help too.


Much of the population of Gaza is now starving, with the United Nations World Food Program confirming last week northern Gaza has entered "full-blown famine". For an area to be considered to be in famine, at least 30 per cent of children need to be suffering from acute malnutrition and two adults or four children per 10,000 people need to die daily from hunger and its complications.

The death toll in Israel's military operation in Gaza was nearing 35,000 Palestinians according to a United Nations report on May 8. 

Israel says it has killed over 13,000 Hamas operatives in Gaza since the war began and about 1,000 on October 7. Some 1200 people - men, women and children - were killed in Israel when Hamas invaded, with a few hundred taken hostage. More than 130 remain in Gaza, and around a quarter are believed to be dead. Hamas said this week that 51-year-old Nadav Popplewell died on Saturday from wounds sustained a month ago in an Israeli air strike. 

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri said Cairo would continue its mediation between Israel and Hamas and urged the two sides to show the flexibility and the will needed to reach a deal.

- With AAP

Feature image: A Gazan mother with her daughter and husband. Photo by Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Images.