Saturday, September 13, 2008

Palestinian women giving birth at Israeli check points

There was story on the BBC today reporting that a soldier was jailed for refusing to allow a Palestinian woman in labor to pass through a checkpoint. The baby was ultimately stillborn. While this is absolutely a tragedy, the most shocking details appear later in the article.

Between 2000 and 2006, at least 68 Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Of these 35 women miscarried, and five died in childbirth.

We have to be a bit careful because the statistics come from the Palestinians, but it's not like the Israelis would be keeping track of something like this. In any case, this is a BBC article and I'm inclined to believe them, but they are a bit confusing. It's not clear what "miscarried" means here; was the baby stillborn? or was the woman miscarrying?

Regardless of these caveats, these statistics are appalling. A maternal death rate of 7%! A fetal death rate of 51%! This is just deplorable.

While these statistics describe the phenomenon at a macro level, I can imagine how it happens at a micro level. Soldiers are given rules to enforce at a checkpoint: no one passes without a permit. There is a suspicion that people are faking medical emergencies to get through the checkpoint. There is further suspicion that paramedics are confederates of the fraud or dupes. A young soldier has no idea of what goes on during childbirth and can't tell when a woman is really in labor. I'm not at all excusing the behavior of the soldiers; I'm just saying that are multiple personal stories behind this a story. Putting an end to these tragic events will require strategies and tactics at the macro and micro level.

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