[News] Siege hits Palestinians before they are born

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu May 15 12:16:14 EDT 2008

Siege hits Palestinians before they are born
Mohammed Omer, The Electronic Intifada, 15 May 2008


It can be a hard life for babies from day one, or even earlier. 
(Mohammed Omer/IPS)

GAZA CITY, 14 May (IPS) - The Israeli siege of Gaza that has 
restricted access to food, water and medicine is now beginning to hit 
unborn children and newborn babies.

"Many babies are born suffering from anaemia that they have inherited 
from their mothers," Dr Salah al-Rantisi, head of the women's health 
department at the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza told IPS. 
And the mothers are becoming anemic because they do not now get 
enough nutrition through pregnancy.

That in turn happens because the Israeli blockade has choked the 
supply of food and medicines.

Dr. al-Rantisi also heads the women's health unit at Nasser hospital, 
where about 30 to 40 children are born every day. Many suffer from 
anemia, he says.

Anwaar Abu Daqqa, 30, has lost three babies prematurely. The fetuses 
were malformed as a result of lack of nutrition and medicine for the 
mother, Dr. al-Rantisi said. And in the last case she reached 
hospital late because she could not find transport.

"Premature babies born dangerously underweight is a daily and 
increasing phenomenon in Gaza's hospitals," he says.

The Gaza Strip is poorer and harder hit than the West Bank, but there 
too there are well documented instances of women having to give birth 
at checkpoints because of restrictions on movement.

The ministry of health says 9,000 to 10,000 babies are born in the 
Gaza Strip every month. Of every 1,000 born, 28 die from 
malnutrition, anemia and other poverty-related causes. The ministry 
has no figures for surviving babies suffering from malnutrition.

"There are many cases of pregnant women who need medicines that are 
not available in Gaza," al-Rantisi said. Most families could not 
afford them if they were available, he said.

The World Bank said last month that the poverty rate in Gaza is now 
close to 67 percent and that economic growth last year was zero.

One consequence of poverty is anaemia. The condition, a direct 
consequence of poor nutrition, is not new to Gaza. The UN agency for 
Palestine refugees, UNRWA reported in 2002 that 19 percent of 
Palestinians in Gaza suffer from anemia. That figure is estimated by 
UNRWA now to be 77.5 percent. Children receive on average only 61 
percent of their daily need of calories from UN supplies.

Many of the newly born have been hit by the political situation 
before they could open their eyes to the world. Of the many 
deliveries that take place at al-Shifa hospital, the largest in Gaza, 
no one can tell how many of these children could grow up to live 
happy and healthy lives. Through the many dangers has arisen 
awareness of this new one - that sanctions can hit Gazans quite 
literally prematurely.

The fear of bombing comes later; the first dangers are the lack of 
food, water and medicines.

Tahani Safi, 29, lies worrying about the cesarean section scheduled 
for the next day. She suffers from malnutrition, high blood pressure, 
diabetes, and a shortage of protective water around the child in the womb.

There are many mothers with such difficulties. Such cases can be 
found at any hospital, but doctors say the number of cases of 
conditions a result of poor food and medical care in Gaza is now 
rising. Health authorities have warned that the life and health of 
countless unborn babies is in serious danger all across Gaza.

So far 146 Palestinians in Gaza have died directly as a result of the 
Israeli siege, and the border closures and shortage of medication and 
health care this has brought, according to the ministry of health.

The US celebrated Mothers Day Sunday May 11. No one in Gaza did.

All rights reserved, IPS - Inter Press Service (2008). Total or 
partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden.

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