Main maternity hospital in Rafah stops admitting patients

Main maternity hospital in Rafah stops admitting patients

LONDON (Reuters): The main maternity hospital in the Gaza Strip’s crowded southern city of Rafah has stopped admitting patients, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said on Wednesday.

The UNFPA told Reuters that the hospital, Al Helal Al Emirati Maternity Hospital, had been handling some 85 out of a daily total of 180 births in Gaza prior to an escalation of fighting between Hamas and Israeli troops on Rafah’s outskirts.

Around half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been crowded into Rafah after fleeing other parts of the enclave during seven months of war.

Israel has threatened a major assault on Rafah to defeat thousands of Hamas fighters it says are holed up there. Around 10,000 Palestinians have left Rafah since Monday, a U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees official said on Wednesday.

Emirati Hospital has only five delivery beds. But following the mass influx of people into Rafah that began in December due to Israeli airstrikes and fighting further north, the hospital became the main place for women to give birth in Rafah, Dominic Allen, the UNFPA’s top official for the occupied Palestinian territories, said in an interview with Reuters last month.

Other hospitals in the city, like Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital, have for months been admitting war wounded and directing women in labour to Emirati.

It was not immediately clear where women in Rafah trying to deliver in a hospital would be able to do so. “Humanitarian partners, in coordination with the Ministry of Health, have set up alternative health facilities that can provide different levels of care”, the UNFPA statement to Reuters read.

The World Health Organisation hopes Emirati will not be forced to shut, the WHO’s top official for Gaza and the West Bank, Richard Peeperkorn, later told a news conference.

But since the latest escalation of the war, he said, some women in Rafah had begun going to field hospitals in Rafah operated by charities including the International Medical Corps.


UNFPA has also recently brought in “mobile maternity services” to Rafah, though some of the U.N. agency’s equipment had prior to this week been stuck at the border crossing with Egypt, he added.

An American midwife currently volunteering at Emirati told Reuters on Wednesday afternoon that new patients were still being admitted to the hospital but fewer women had arrived to give birth in the past few days.

Bridget Rochios, who is volunteering with Canada-based medical charity Glia Project, said hospital staff have had to leave work early or not come at all in order to evacuate their families since Monday, when Israel told Palestinians to evacuate parts of Rafah.

“We are also low on supplies and anticipate this issue to be exacerbated by the Rafah border crossing closure”, she said in a Whatsapp text message.