Photo of the Day: When life and death meet in the maternity ward

Note: Due to the sheer amount of evocative and telling photography coming out of Palestine, we have transitioned our weekly photograph features into daily photograph features and will continue uploading images on a daily basis until further notice.

Photo credit: Loulou d’Aki
Date taken: July 2014
Location: Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestine

Sahar Dalar Erifi, 31, breathes deeply as her contractions intensify. She is expected to give birth prematurely. Across the street from the Al-Shifa Hospital’s maternity ward is the hospital’s morgue which has seen far more activity in the past weeks.

As Israel continues to slam the Gaza Strip with air strikes and tank shells, the death toll climbs steadily upwards. After twenty-four days, at least 1,410 Palestinians have been killed. But as death floats in the air, so does life. In maternity wards across Gaza, the miracle of life has not let up. Hundreds of babies have been delivered since the invasion began on July 8.

One delivery made headlines across the world. Shayma Al-Sheikh Qanan, 23, was eight months pregnant when a tank shell hit her home and killed her. Doctors in Gaza surgically rescued the premature baby, who had been named Shayma after her mother. Nicknamed Gaza’s ‘miracle baby,’ Shayma was put on a mechanical respirator to reverse the effects of the asphyxiation she suffered when her mother’s heart stopped beating. But an Israeli air strike on Gaza’s only fuel depot and power generator caused an electrical shortage in the hospital that was caring for the newborn. Shayma died only days after her rescue.

But that same day, another mother in Gaza gave birth to a set of four healthy babies.

Unfortunately, babies born in the Gaza Strip are given identification numbers only after approval by the Israeli government.

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