Occupied Palestinian territory | News | In focus | Palestinian newborn dies at Rafah border, October 2013

Palestinian newborn dies at Rafah border, October 2013

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20 October 2013, Jerusalem – On 26 September 2013, Iman Mashrawi, in her eighth month of pregnancy, travelled from Morocco, where she has lived for four years, to visit her family in the Gaza Strip. After flying into Cairo, she spent a night in the airport before embarking on the long taxi ride to El Arish, and then taking another taxi to the Rafah border crossing. Her family had in the past come to Cairo to assist her, but were now unable to leave the Gaza Strip due to restrictions imposed at the crossing by the Egyptian authorities. According to Iman, her trip to Rafah had been long due to repeated security checks, so that by the time she reached the crossing on 27 September, it was already closed for the day.  

The trip had left Iman extremely tired and, in light of her condition, her family urged her to seek special humanitarian access at the crossing, but according to Iman, officials on the Egyptian-side of the crossing refused to allow her to pass. When she requested to be allowed to rest in the small prayer area inside the passenger terminal until the crossing opened, she was also refused. At this point, according to Iman, she was exhausted and asked to be transferred to a hospital, but officials at the crossing indicated that they were unable to assist her.

An Egyptian man working at a nearby kiosk with his children invited her to stay in their house until the terminal opened the following day. Although she was not due to deliver for another month, she began experiencing contractions. When her contractions strengthened, the man called for an ambulance multiple times, asking them to take her to hospital because she was in labour, but they were informed that no ambulances could move during the night-time curfew imposed in the area. As a result, the man and his wife decided to take Iman to the hospital themselves. According to Iman, “We were delayed at a security checkpoint for two hours and then I delivered the baby in his car, and the baby was alive…. It was night (at 10 pm), I had neither family nor medical assistance during delivery.”

At that point, Iman recounted that she fainted, and the security men allowed the car to go to the hospital. “When I woke up, I was in hospital and the Egyptian man and his wife were the only persons there. They offered me their condolences on the death of my son, Mohammad.”  The following day, the Mashrawi family coordinated back-to-back ambulance travel across Rafah border for the traumatized Iman, who carried the body of her baby who was buried in the Gaza Strip. 

You can access this text in OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin, September 2013, Page 5 

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