UNICEF: 20,000 children born in Gaza 'hell' since start of Israeli bombing, siege
At least 20,000 children have been born since the start of Israel's devastating war on Gaza in October, UNICEF said on Friday, with many at risk of death and disease.
This means approximately one child is born every 10 minutes amid Israel's military onslaught on the enclave.
UNICEF communications specialist Tess Ingram stressed the dire conditions Palestinian women are faced with while giving birth in the war-hit territory, due to lack of medical equipment, access to aid and a lack of suitable environment for childbirth.
Scores of women have found themselves with no choice but to give birth without anasthaesia, ultimately risking their health as well as that of the child.
"Mothers face unimaginable challenges in accessing appropriate medical care, nutrition and protection before, during and after birth," Ingram said at the bi-weekly UN agencies press briefing in Geneva.
"Becoming a mother should be a time to celebrate. In Gaza, it is another child born in hell," she added.
Ingram also urged that more "intensified and immediate actions" are needed for pregnant women and newborns in the war-hit territory.
Close to 25,000 people have been killed by relentless Israeli bombardment in all corners of the impoverished and densely-populated territory – most of whom are women and children.
While imposing a complete siege, Israel has also destroyed key infrastructure and limited aid entry to Gaza.
Ingram, who recently returned from southern Gaza, explained that workers at the overcrowded Emirati Hospital in Rafah had to remove mothers from the hospital "within three hours after the caesarean section was performed".
She added that the ongoing bombing and displacement "directly affects newborn children, leading to high rates of malnutrition, growth problems, and other health complications".
The UN official said that it is believed that about 135,000 children under the age of two are currently at risk of acute malnutrition, amid "inhumane" conditions in temporary shelters, malnutrition and unsafe water.
Over half the population of Gaza is currently displaced, with those who have fled mainly concentrated in the southern city of Rafah. Diseases, such as Hepatitis C, are becoming more and more widespread among the displaced.