‘There’s a Lot of Women Giving Birth Here Every Day’: Inside the Maternity Ward of Gaza’s Largest Hospital

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Maysa rests in a hospital bed after having given birth to a son, her 4th child. She lives in the Shatha camp and will go back home soon although numerous notifications from Israeli defense forces regarding homes that will be destroyed in airstrikes in the area makes her feel unsafe.
A Gazan woman rests after giving birth to her fourth child. She lives in the Shatha camp and will go back home soon, even though the area faces airstrikes. Photo: Loulou d’Aki

Photographer Loulou d'Aki was in Berlin for a family vacation when Operation Defensive Edge broke out. The Swedish national, who had been based in Jerusalem for two years and had frequently traveled to Gaza, quickly cut her plans short and flew down to document the conflict. 

Once there, d'Aki found herself back at the morgue of Gaza City's al-Shifa Hospital, which she'd also covered during Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. Again, she found herself noticing women in a building across the street. "They would just stand by the window, looking at what happened," she said. Her local fixer told her the building was a maternity ward.

D'Aki described the realization as "a bit creepy," but an apt analogy for the situation in Gaza. "There's a lot of women giving birth here every day, but there's also a lot of funerals," she said. "Death is just there."

This eerie coexistence of birth and death served as the inspiration for her new photo series. D'Aki spoke to and photographed women in the ward, many of whom leave the clinic just hours after giving birth. She says over 700 children have been born in that maternity ward since the war began, with death visible clearly through the hospital windows. —Katie Zavaski

 

A pregnant woman looks out a window which faces the morgue, from her bed in Al Shifa hospital maternity clinic in Gaza city before giving birth.
A pregnant woman looks out her window at the hospital morgue. Photo: Loulou d’Aki

 

A baby, prematurely born in the 33rd week, lies in its incubator in Al Shifa maternity clinic. The number of babies born prematurely rises in times of war.
A baby, prematurely born in the 33rd week, lies in its incubator in al-Shifa Maternity Clinic. The number of babies born prematurely rises in times of war. Photo: Loulou d’Aki

 

31-year old Sahar Dalar Erifi takes deep breaths to endure the pain as contractions intensifies, in Al Shifa Maternity clinic in Gaza city. Sahar will give birth prematurely.
Sahar Dalar Erifi, 31, takes deep breaths as her contractions intensify. Sahar will give birth prematurely. Photo: Loulou d’Aki

 

Scisscors and tools used by midwives during delivery lies on a table in Al Shifa Maternity Clinic in Gaza city.
Scisscors and tools used by midwives during delivery lies on a table in al-Shifa Maternity Clinic in Gaza city. Photo: Loulou d’Aki

 

Curtains are drawn to give privacy to women who needs a rest after giving birth in Al Shifa Maternity clinic in Gaza City.
Curtains are drawn to give privacy to women who needs a rest after giving birth in al-Shifa Maternity Clinic in Gaza City. Photo: Loulou d’Aki/14

 

May gave birth to a deadborn child. She rests for a moment in the hospital before returning to her temporary home in an UNRWA school where she and her family took refuge when their neighborhood received a destruction warning destruction by the IDF, a few days before Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza strip began.
This woman gave birth to a stillborn child. She rests before returning to her temporary home in an U.N. school where she and her family sought refuge during the conflict. Photo: Loulou d’Aki

 

Refugees from Shishaya who made Al Shifa hospital their temporary abode after having to evacuate their homes due to Israel’s ground invasion of the Gaza strip, are seen from a window at the Maternity Clinic in Gaza City.
Visible through a window are refugees who made al-Shifa hospital their temporary home after having to evacuate their homes owing to Israel’s ground invasion. Photo: Loulou d’Aki

 

19-year old Rua rests in a bed at Al Shifa Maternity Clinic in Gaza City after giving birth to her first daughter Mira.
19-year-old Rua rests after giving birth to her first daughter, Mira. Photo: Loulou d’Aki
A Palestinian woman passes in front of the Maternity Clinic and the Morgue in Al Shifa hospital, Gaza city.
A woman passes in front of the maternity clinic and the morgue at al-Shifa. Photo: Loulou d’Aki