Voices from Gaza: Safa’s perseverance through pregnancy and displacement


A Palestinian family is seen at a shelter during a rainy night in the city of Rafah, Gaza.
A Palestinian family is seen at a shelter during a rainy night in the city of Rafah, Gaza. Photo: UNICEF/Eyad El Baba

“Living through the war is like living through a nightmare,” said Safa Btah.

A 29-year-old mother of two, Btah was displaced from her home in Gaza City while six months pregnant with her third child.

“We were forced to flee our home, leaving behind everything we knew and loved”, she said. Btah and her family first sought refuge in the southern city of Khan Younis, only to be met by further bombardments and sniper fire, forcing them to continue further south to Rafah.

“Every day felt like a battle for survival”, she said through tears. “We had nowhere to go, no one to turn to.”

Constructing a tent from materials scavenged on the streets, Btah and her family huddled together in a makeshift shelter. Rafah’s population before 7 October was approximately 250,000, but the city now holds more than 1.1 million. Improvised tents offer little relief, get sodden with rainfall, and lack heat or electricity. 

“We slept on the cold, damp ground, with no protection from the elements”, Btah recalled. “As a pregnant woman, it was unbearable.”

The onset of contractions while inside the tent filled her with dread and anxiety. “I didn't know if we would make it to the hospital in time”, she said, her voice choked with emotion. “The fear of losing my baby consumed me.”

With transportation scarce and roads in ruins, Btah embarked on a torturous two-hour trek to the hospital, a journey that under normal circumstances would have taken only 20 minutes.

Maneuvering through congested streets filled with displaced families and wounded civilians, “every moment was excruciating”, she said, adding, “But I pressed on, for the sake of my unborn child.”

After reaching the hospital, Btah gave birth to a healthy baby boy, whom she named Zein. “When I held him in my arms for the first time, I felt a glimmer of hope amid the chaos”, she said. “He was a symbol of resilience, a testament to the strength of the human spirit.”

Returning to the tent with her newborn, her concerns grew as she struggled to keep her baby warm and nourished amid the harsh conditions. “Every day was a battle”, she said, “But I knew I had to keep fighting, for the sake of my children.”

UN Women reports that two mothers have been killed in Gaza every hour since 7 October. UNICEF has reported that at least 17,000 children have been orphaned or separated from their parents amid the conflict. 

Btah’s story underscores the harrowing reality faced by pregnant women in conflict zones. 

“Despite displacement and hunger, we cling to hope”, she said, her voice resolute. “With love in our hearts, we can conquer any challenge, no matter how daunting.”

“My children are my everything”, she added. “And I will do whatever it takes to give them the life they deserve, no matter what challenges lie ahead.”