Devastating strike on Gaza fertility clinic destroys hope for thousands

176

17th April 2024 – (Gaza) In December 2023, a fertility clinic in Gaza City, known as the Al Basma IVF Center, was severely damaged by an Israeli artillery shell, resulting in the destruction of over 5,000 reproductive specimens, including embryos, sperm, and eggs. This event underscores the profound and often overlooked consequences of the ongoing conflict on civilian life and infrastructure.

The Al Basma centre, which housed the largest repository of frozen embryos in the region, has been a beacon of hope for many Palestinian couples grappling with infertility. The clinic’s destruction has abruptly ended the prospects of parenthood for at least half of these couples, particularly those who cannot produce viable eggs or sperm for new IVF attempts.

Dr. Bahaeldeen Ghalayini, a Cambridge-trained obstetrician who founded the clinic in 1997, expressed his heartbreak over the incident, emphasising the profound impact on families who saw these embryos as their future progeny. “My heart is divided into a million pieces,” he lamented, reflecting on the emotional weight carried by the loss of potential life.

The conflict, which escalated following an attack by Hamas on 7th October, has not only claimed thousands of lives but has also imposed severe restrictions on essential supplies, including medical necessities like liquid nitrogen, crucial for preserving vital reproductive cells at sub-zero temperatures.

Seba Jaafarawi, a 32-year-old woman from Gaza, shares her harrowing journey through infertility treatments, compounded by the terror and uncertainty brought about by the conflict. Despite a successful pregnancy through IVF, her joy was short-lived as the escalating violence jeopardized her health and that of her unborn twins, leading to a heartrending miscarriage.

The situation around the Al Basma IVF Center became untenable as Israeli forces advanced into Gaza, making it perilous for staff like Mohammed Ajjour, the chief embryologist, to maintain the necessary conditions to safeguard the stored embryos. Amidst the chaos, critical supplies ran low, and access to the clinic became impossible.