UNICEF in emergencies

‘We cannot wait’ – Gaza aid worker’s wife about to give birth amidst crisis

UNICEF Image: Gaza, water
© UNICEF/2009/El Baba
During one of the daily three-hour ceasefires observed in Gaza, boys cart water in the Khan Younis area of Gaza City.

By Chris Niles

NEW YORK, USA, 14 January 2009 – The conflict in the Gaza Strip holds special terror for Sajy, one of 10 UNICEF staff members who have persevered in the territory throughout the current crisis. His wife is due to give birth any day.

Sajy is a Reporting Officer responsible for briefing UNICEF about what is going on in Gaza. As heavy fire and aerial bombardment intensifies around his home in western Gaza, his personal life is now part of that story.

“It’s very intensive right now,” Sajy said in a telephone interview with UNICEF Radio. “They’re advancing into very populated areas. It looks like they’re not stopping at one place, they’re continuing on. Every day they advance a little bit more.”

The Ministry of Health in Gaza reports that the death toll from the conflict has risen to more than 1,000, including over 300 children.

Displaced people seek shelter

Ground incursions into Gaza began this week. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2,000 people are being displaced every day. Sajy said the three-hour ceasefire observed each day sees the streets filled with people carrying their possessions and looking for a friend or relative with whom to stay.

UNICEF Image: Gaza, water
© UNICEF/2009/El Baba
A child climbs on the rubble of a building in the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza. Thousands of Gazans are reportedly being displaced each day.

“I know people who are living 40 people inside one apartment, inside a three-bedroom apartment. They’re just stacked in there,” he said.

Sajy’s main concern is that if his wife goes into labour, he won’t be able to get her to Gaza City’s Shifa hospital safely. Their doctor has told them the hospital is no longer dispatching ambulances at night because several drivers have been killed. The couple has decided to go to the hospital during the ceasefire tomorrow morning and have labour induced.

Concern over getting to hospital

“That’s what we’re planning to do, because we cannot wait for the natural time to come,” said Sajy. “It’s going to be at night, maybe, and we can’t get her to the hospital.”

Adding to his deep fear for the safety of his wife and their new baby is a report Sajy heard in the Gaza news media of a woman in labour who, when no ambulance came, ventured onto the street with a friend. The report said that both women were killed, along with two others who came to their aid. 

“I don’t want to be put in this situation. It’s a terrifying situation,” he said.

Click here for an earlier story and radio report on Sajy’s life and work amidst crisis.




13 January 2009:
UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on the quandary facing a UNICEF aid worker in Gaza whose wife is about to give birth.
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