In the neonatal unit at al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza Strip, a preterm infant wriggles in an enclosed incubator. As medical staff connect intravenous lines and administer medication, the fragile newborn cries out and relies on a ventilator for breathing. Vital signs are carefully monitored through flashing screens.
The survival of his life relies on a steady supply of electricity. However, this supply is at risk of depletion unless the hospital can acquire more fuel for its generators. If the generators shut down, Iyad Abu Zahar, the hospital director, is worried that the infants in the ward, who cannot breathe on their own, will die.
He mentioned that we have a huge responsibility on our shoulders.
Physicians caring for preterm infants in Gaza are facing the same concerns. Aid workers report that approximately 130 premature babies in six neonatal units are in serious danger. The hazardous lack of fuel is a result of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which began after Hamas fighters launched attacks on Israeli towns on October 7th.
According to the World Health Organization, around 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza are currently unable to receive necessary medical care. Approximately 5,500 of these women are expected to give birth within the next month.
At least seven of the almost 30 hospitals have been forced to shut down due to damage from relentless Israeli strikes and lack of power, water and other supplies. Doctors in the remaining hospitals said they are on the brink. The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees said Sunday it has enough fuel to last three days to serve critical needs.
Melanie Ward, CEO of the Medical Aid for Palestinians aid organization, stated that it is unacceptable for the world to stand by and watch as innocent babies are killed due to the ongoing siege on Gaza. She stressed that not taking action would essentially condemn these babies to death.
On Saturday, 20 trucks carrying aid entered Gaza, the first to do so since the start of the siege. However, none of the trucks contained fuel due to concerns that it may fall into the hands of Hamas. The limited fuel available in Gaza is being directed towards powering hospital generators.
Seven fuel trucks obtained fuel from a U.N. storage facility located on the Gaza border, though it is uncertain if any of it was intended for use in hospitals.
However, it will eventually deplete if further entry is not allowed.
According to Tarik Jašarević, a representative from the World Health Organization, the provision of basic services in Gaza’s five major hospitals necessitates 150,000 liters (40,000 gallons) of fuel.
Abu Zahar is concerned about the duration of his facility’s sustainability.
According to him, the incubators in the intensive care unit will be in a critical state if the generator shuts down. This is expected to happen within the next few hours due to the high demand from various departments in the hospital.
According to Guillemette Thomas, who serves as the medical coordinator for Doctors Without Borders in the Palestinian territories, there is a risk of some infants dying within a few hours and others within a few days if they do not receive the necessary medical support and treatment immediately.
She informed The Associated Press that the infants are undoubtedly at risk. It is crucial to prioritize the well-being of these babies, just as it is crucial to address the suffering of the Gaza population enduring relentless bombings for the past two weeks.
He stated that due to the closure of multiple hospitals, the hospital is responsible for treating patients in the northern and central regions of Gaza. This has resulted in the need for the hospital to increase its patient capacity by more than two-fold, which also adds pressure on the already limited electricity supply.
Nesma al-Haj took her new baby girl to the hospital from Nuseirat, where she had been forced to leave due to conflict in northern Gaza. She reported that the baby had experienced a lack of oxygen and was in extreme pain.
The newborn girl arrived into the world just three days ago but quickly experienced complications. Speaking from al-Aqsa, she expressed concern over the hospital’s shortage of supplies. She fears that if the situation worsens, there will be no medicine available to treat their children.
The issues have worsened due to the unclean water that many have been compelled to utilize after Israel halted the water distribution. Abu Zahar reports that mothers are combining infant formula with the polluted water to nourish their babies. This has led to an increase in severe cases in the ward.
According to Ahmed Muhanna, the director of al-Awda Hospital in northern Jabalia, approximately 50 infants are delivered daily at the private facility. Despite receiving an evacuation notice from the Israeli military, the hospital continued to operate.
“The situation is unfortunate in all aspects,” he stated. “We have documented a significant shortage of emergency medications, anesthetics, and other medical resources.”
In order to manage limited resources, Muhanna explained that the hospital halted all planned procedures and focused instead on urgent cases and deliveries. Any complicated neonatal cases are referred to al-Aqsa.
According to Muhanna, Al-Awda has sufficient fuel to sustain itself for a maximum of four days. Despite reaching out to several global organizations, such as the World Health Organization, for assistance in obtaining fuel for hospitals, their efforts have been unsuccessful thus far.
According to Thomas, women have delivered babies in schools managed by the United Nations, which have provided refuge for tens of thousands of displaced individuals.
She expressed concern for the safety of both the women and babies at this moment, emphasizing the urgency of the situation.
Magdy reported from the city of Cairo. Kullab reported from the city of Baghdad.
This article amends the name from Nisma al-Ayub to Nesma al-Haj.