Trigger warning: Some readers may find details of this report disturbing. Discretion is advised.
Premature babies born in the Gaza Strip amidst the ongoing Israel-Hamas war are dying in the absence of adequate health equipment and other facilities as the escalating conflict has made it difficult for hospitals to run optimally.
The toll released on Monday (Nov 13) by the Palestinian authorities stated that a premature baby and two patients have died in Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital.
The Hamas-run health ministry said that the facility suffered fuel shortages amid intense fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants.
Youssef Abu Rish, who is the deputy health minister in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, told the news agency AFP that the new deaths brought the toll to six premature babies and nine patients since electric shortages started to impact the hospital.
But Israel claims that Hamas, a Palestinian-based militant group which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by many Western nations, has set up camps beneath hospitals and they are using civilians as human shields.
The dark side of the war
The newborns are facing the wrath of the war as they are on the receiving end of war. Some of them are born before time amid a lack of medical equipment to take care of premature births, such as incubators.
A report by news agency Reuters mentioned that the babies are kept side by side, some wrapped in green fabric roughly taped around them, for warmth.
Images released by the news agency showed some babies wearing only nappies, a picture of vulnerability, their lives in grave danger with every minute that passes.
Some social media posts, citing Medhat Abbas, a spokesperson for the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, claimed that some babies were born via C-section from dead mothers. WION couldn’t independently confirm.
Disclaimer: WION cannot independently verify the authenticity of photos and videos shared on social media.
This picture from inside Al Shifa hospital in Gaza, premature babies wrapped in aluminium foil to control temperature since there’s no electricity!
As per Gaza health ministry: Four babies lost their mothers before birth, doctors saved them by C-section on their dead mothers. pic.twitter.com/Nyn7wvgzVX
— Zeba Warsi (@Zebaism) November 13, 2023
The premature babies in Al Shifa hospital who have been taken out of incubators since electricity cut on Sat, are huddled on one bed to try and keep them warm. Three have already died. Four were born via c-section from dead mothers, MoH spox Medhat Abbas said. pic.twitter.com/zz30Rx2LMR
— Abbie Cheeseman (@cheesemanab) November 13, 2023
The situation is extremely dire, with Dr Mohamed Tabasha, head of the paediatric department at Al-Shifa, in a telephone interview on Monday, said: “Yesterday I had 39 babies and today they have become 36.”
“I cannot say how long they can last. I can lose another two babies today, or in an hour,” Tabasha told Reuters.
The report claimed that premature babies weigh less than 1.5kg each and in some cases only 700 or 800 grammes.
The health experts believe that they should be in incubators where the temperature and humidity can be regulated according to their individual needs.
However, Tabasha claimed that they had to be moved to ordinary beds over the weekend because of a shortage of electricity.
They were placed side by side, surrounded by packets of nappies, cardboard boxes of sterile gauze and plastic bags.
“I never expected in my life that I would put 39 babies side by side on a bed, each with a different disease, and in this acute shortage of medical staff, of milk,” said Tabasha.
He also raised other issues such as the temperature as he said that the infants are too cold due to unstable power cuts.
He also said that the babies are transmitting viruses to each other and they have no immunity in the absence of infection control measures.
He said there was no longer any way of sterilising their milk and bottle teats to the required standard.
(With inputs from agencies)
Disclaimer: WION takes utmost care to accurately and responsibly report ongoing developments on the Israel-Palestine conflict after the Hamas attacks. However, we cannot independently verify the authenticity of all statements, photos and videos.