His little buns tight, his eyes wide: Mohammed Kulab is a few days old. He is the seventh child in his family and was born weeks after it started war between Israel and Hamas.

“We shouldn’t be giving birth in these conditions,” says his mother Fadua Kulab, who left her home in Rafah to settle with her family at a UN school in this town in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. .

There he hopes to escape airstrikes from Israel, which has been relentlessly bombing the Palestinian enclave since the October 7 Hamas attack that killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

“His birth was the most difficult experience of my life,” says Kulab, who says she is exhausted and unable to protect her children.

More than 11,000 people, mostly civilians, including more than 4,500 children, have been killed by Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip since October 7, according to Hamas’ health ministry.

According to this source, six premature babies died in the last few days due to the lack of electricity in hospitals in the northern part of the Gaza Strip, which is the most affected by the conflicts.


Like many mothers of newborns AFP spoke to in Gaza, Mohammed’s mother says he refuses to breastfeed. “I don’t eat well,” he explains.

Nursing mothers should normally drink three liters of water a day and increase their food intake in order to produce milk. But access to clean water and food is becoming increasingly difficult in Gaza every day.

Kulab is also struggling to find baby formula and diapers.

At the age of 37, Nazua Salem holds her second son in her arms, wrapped in many blankets.

The newborn is jaundiced, but today in Gaza more than half of the hospitals are out of service and the rest do not have enough fuel to continue phototherapy for all the newborns.

To reduce the risk of neurological problems, the newborn must be exposed to sunlight, but Salem hesitates because of “the smells and the bombing.”

In a school hall in Rafah, where she now lives with about 70 other people, Salem worries: the scar from her caesarean section has become infected. The hospital where she gave birth forced her to leave after one night “because they had a lot of injured people to treat,” she explains.

Dust, which is everywhere due to the bombing, is another threat, especially for premature babies who suffer from respiratory problems.

Eight months pregnant Umm Ibrahim Alayan has been coughing like the rest of her family since she fled her home due to airstrikes. A strong cough can cause her to have premature contractions, which she has been feeling for days.

“I’m terrified, all I want is to hold my baby in my arms. I’m afraid every moment that I’m going to lose it,” he says.

“Crisis of humanity”

In the Gaza Strip, there are 50,000 pregnant women and more than 180 women give birth every day “with nowhere to go”, says Dominic Allen, representative of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) in the Palestinian territories.

“We estimate that at least 15% of births will have complications that will require obstetric care” which is not available in war-torn Gaza, he notes.

UNFPA describes a “nightmare” situation: women leaving the hospital three hours after giving birth, a lack of blood for those who bleed after giving birth, caesarean sections and cutting the umbilical cord without antiseptic.

The UN agency managed to get into the Palestinian enclave 8,000 “hygiene birth kits”, containing, among other things, tools for cutting the umbilical cord, a blanket for the newborns and disposable sheets.

A drop in the ocean of the needs of the 2.4 million residents of Gaza and especially the pregnant women who are often forced to give birth in makeshift camps or on the street.

“This nightmare in Gaza is more than a humanitarian crisis, it’s a crisis of our humanity,” Allen laments.