In Zaporijia, a maternity hospital facing the front

The head doctor crosses the corridors, slipping a word of encouragement to the employees he meets on his way. A woman in a stretcher surrounded by nurses holds her child, born two hours earlier. Despite the war, its proximity to the front line located a few dozen kilometers away and the regular bombardments on the city in south-eastern Ukraine, the central maternity hospital in Zaporijia has never stopped working. Even during the first weeks of the conflict, care and deliveries took place night and day in an underground shelter.

“Of course we are nervous”, gently releases Valentyn Khodak, head of the service. Since February 24 and the start of the Russian invasion, 800 women, according to the maternity count, have given birth here. The figure is much lower than in previous years. As in all cities of Ukraine, many women “have gone to the west of the country or abroad”, assures the head doctor. The other two maternities in Zaporijia, 800,000 inhabitants in peacetime, are seeing similar declines.

Three Russian missiles on a column of cars

As a result of the war, the establishment recorded, on the other hand, an increase in the number of women originating from the territories under Russian control in southern Ukraine. Of the 800 who showed up in the past seven months, 315 came from the partially occupied regions of Kherson, Zaporizhia and Donetsk. For the days and weeks to come, the chief doctor expects to receive another 250 displaced persons from these territories who have already reserved a place in the maternity ward. Valentyn Khodak explains that the areas held by the Kremlin suffer from a lack of medical personnel. “There are no more doctors there, he assures. All the Ukrainian doctors who could evacuate left. Those who remained were primarily mobilized to take care of wounded soldiers. »

Babies are born prematurely due to the stress of the Russian bombardments on the city.  Olena Schadnykh, doctor, observes their state of health, at the regional maternity hospital in Zaporizhia, September 25, 2022.

However, the events of the past few days could prevent these 250 expected women from giving birth in the Zaporijia maternity ward. Friday, September 30 in the morning, three Russian missiles fell on a column of cars which was preparing to take the only crossing point between the territories controlled by the Russian forces and the region held by the Ukrainian army. The bombing did did “30 dead and 88 injured”, including children, Ukrainian police chief Igor Klimenko said on Facebook in the evening. According to local media, the civilians in the convoy were heading towards the Kremlin-controlled part of Zaporizhia Oblast.

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