'Israel's systematic process to destroy Palestine’s next generation': Dr Haya Hijazi's fight to save Gaza's pregnant women and newborn babies

The fight to save Gaza's pregnant women and babies continues
8 min read
01 March, 2024

Before October 7 2023, Dr Haya Hijazi was a well-known and much-loved gynaecologist and obstetrician to whom women from all over Gaza came for help and treatment in getting pregnant.

In her spare time, she was an online educator; she shared advice for getting pregnant on her Instagram profile, interesting facts about pregnancy, and raised awareness about women’s reproductive health. Her profile was one of positivity and hope, filled with videos of all the beautiful babies she delivered.

Today Dr Haya’s job role has become very different; she now fights to keep these pregnant and labouring women and their newborn babies alive.

"Mothers face unimaginable challenges in accessing appropriate medical care, nutrition and protection before, during and after birth. Becoming a mother should be a time to celebrate. In Gaza, it is another child born in hell"

Sharing her current experiences on her social media, Dr Haya talks about a woman who was unable to make it to a hospital to give birth and went into labour at home. She contacted Dr Haya via WhatsApp to ask her how to cut an umbilical cord; she had given birth while Israeli tanks surrounded her house, making it too dangerous for her to evacuate.

In one painful Instagram story, Dr Haya shares the news of the death of one of her previous patients. It had taken her patient 18 years to get pregnant after finally having a successful round of IVF at Dr Haya’s clinic, only for her and her unborn child to be killed by Israeli bombs.

In another Instagram story, Dr Haya shares the story of a 22-year-old woman who is six months pregnant and has had her leg blown off. She tells Dr Haya that she cannot feel the baby moving; Dr Haya gives her an ultrasound and the scan reveals that the foetus has died.


A post shared by Haya Hijazi (@dr.haya.gaza)

Children in Gaza 'born in hell'

The current situation for Gaza’s new and expectant mothers is nothing short of catastrophic. One child is born every ten minutes in Gaza, and the UN estimates that 180 women give birth in Gaza per day.

Pregnant women in Gaza have been giving birth against the backdrop of constant bombing by the Israeli army, at home, in cars, in one of a few remaining overcrowded hospitals, in UN schools, and tents.

In a press briefing delivered from Amman in mid-January 2024 to UN offices in Geneva, UNICEF’s Communications Specialist Tess Ingram said, “Mothers face unimaginable challenges in accessing appropriate medical care, nutrition and protection before, during and after birth. Becoming a mother should be a time to celebrate. In Gaza, it is another child born in hell.”


A post shared by Haya Hijazi (@dr.haya.gaza)

There have been dozens of reports throughout the ongoing genocide that women have been forced to undergo Caesarean sections without anaesthesia, something that Ingram confirmed in her press briefing.

Dr Haya is currently volunteering at Al Emirati Hospital in the Southern province of Rafah; this is the only hospital in the area that is currently equipped with a functioning labour ward.

In addition to this, she has been overseeing her own charity drive, fundraising money to purchase urgent food, hygiene, clothing and blanket supplies, which she buys and distributes to displaced people in Rafah. Before the genocide, Dr Haya said Al Emirati Hospital saw a maximum of 100-150 women a day; that number has now quadrupled.

Live Story

Speaking to The New Arab, Dr Haya describes a very dire situation for new and expectant mothers who struggle to find not just a hospital to give birth in, but space to give birth.

“The situation for pregnant women and those who have just given birth in Gaza is bad,” she tells The New Arab. “Nowhere is safe, there is bombing everywhere, and at the same time, women are coming to hospitals to give birth and finding them so crammed with displaced people that there’s no room to even move your leg.

"After a woman gives birth in Gaza she must leave the hospital after one hour because there aren’t enough beds for her to stay and sleep and there are other patients who need those beds to give birth on.

“There’s also the issue of labouring women getting to hospitals,” she adds. “Rafah has 1.5 million people and only one hospital is available to give birth in – Al Emirati hospital – and the thing is it’s not in the centre of Rafah, it’s far, at the edge of Rafah.

"Most women in labour come without maternity pads or even clothes for their newborn babies, because the prices are high, there’s little available to buy and not many things are getting through Gaza at the moment. We do our best to give them second-hand clothing for their babies.”

"The genocide has affected the rate of miscarriages by an increase of 300%, and the rate of stillborn babies has increased from 1% to 10%... We’ve seen many pregnant and labouring women be killed and babies be killed"

Israel destroys Gaza's next generation

The Israeli government’s total siege of Gaza and blockade of aid supplies has thrown the strip’s population into mass starvation.

In a special briefing on Gaza published by the UN-supported Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), a tool that identifies famines and advises on famine response, three-quarters of Gaza’s entire population has been classified as IPC Phase 4 (people in emergency) and a quarter of the population received the most dangerous classification, IPC Phase 5 (people in catastrophe). Starvation as a method of warfare is classified as a war crime under international criminal law.

New and expectant mothers, babies, and toddlers are at the highest risk and most affected by malnutrition; both unborn babies and children under the age of two are at risk of substantial developmental conditions and delays as a result of starvation.

Ultimately, chronic malnutrition in babies and toddlers can lead to death, and social media has already been awash with videos and photographs of babies and toddlers that Palestinian photojournalists say have died from starvation.


“Levels of postpartum malnutrition and postpartum depression have increased,” says Dr Haya. “Most women who have recently given birth are looking for baby formula. I ask them whether they can breastfeed their babies and their response is, “We are staying in tents and there are lots of strangers and men about, so how can we breastfeed?”

With their poor mental health and malnutrition, they aren’t able to produce enough breast milk, and baby formula is expensive; the cheapest tin is 25 shekels (over £5) and people are already struggling just trying to get food.

"People are living in a chain of poverty, illness, starvation and fear. People in Gaza are eating animal feed, women are eating animal feed, so what do you expect the outcome of their pregnancies to be?”

At the end of January 2024, CARE International, an international humanitarian agency that pays special focus to women and girls, reported that the rate of miscarriages in Gaza had skyrocketed by 300%, a consequence of the disastrous conditions, and extreme levels of stress and trauma that pregnant women in Gaza experience. This statistic corresponds with Dr Haya’s reports from Al Emirati Hospital in Rafah.

“The genocide has affected the rate of miscarriages by an increase of 300%, and the rate of stillborn babies has increased from 1% to 10%,” she says.

“We’ve seen many pregnant and labouring women be killed and babies be killed. The rate of maternal mortality has also increased due to an increase in complications both during and after labour, such as haemorrhaging, sepsis and complications caused by women who come in with preeclampsia.”

According to the UNFPA around 540,000 women in Gaza are of reproductive age. In addition to the catastrophic conditions currently surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, women are suffering other reproductive health problems as a result of the genocide, such as a shortage of painkillers, prescription medication and menstrual products and a lack of access to clean water, hygiene products and toilets, all of which could have long term effects on their sexual and reproductive health.

Some women have resorted to making makeshift sanitary pads from pieces of cloth with plastic bags around their underwear or cut-up baby diapers. Not only is it exhausting, painful and humiliating, but according to Dr Haya, it has also worsened Palestinian women’s mental health.

Explaining the women’s health issues being faced in more detail she says, “Many women are suffering from UTIs and gynaecological infections due to malnutrition, lack of access to water and lack of clean water. They aren’t able to keep clean and have to wait for their turn for the toilet along with hundreds of other people. There is also no privacy in these conditions. Menstruating women cannot change their sanitary towels every 6-8 hours.”

Live Story

It is the argument of many that Palestine is a reproductive rights issue. Even before October 2023, Palestinian women in Gaza faced barriers to their reproductive rights as a result of the blockade and restrictions on movement in and out of Gaza imposed on them by the Israeli government.

Since October 2023, their reproductive rights have been diminished further as the Israeli army has targeted hospitals and healthcare facilities, destroying gynaecology and obstetrics wards. Dr Haya says the destruction of these facilities is not an accident.

“Everything that’s taken place during this genocide has been done with an aim,” says Dr Haya. “Palestinian women and babies represent a new generation. I had an interview with an Israeli, and when I asked him why the Israeli army targets young children, he said it was because they would one day become the resistance.

"So, this is a systematic process of destroying Palestine’s next generation, and destroying Palestinian women’s reproductive health and their ability to conceive.”

Follow Dr Haya Hijazi on Instagram, where you can also find more information on how to donate to her charity drive.

Yousra Samir Imran is a British Egyptian writer and author who is based in Yorkshire. She is the author of Hijab and Red Lipstick, published by Hashtag Press

Follow her on Twitter: @UNDERYOURABAYA