A midwife holding a hunger strike for Gaza has said the potential deaths of newborn babies will be “on our hands” if calls for an immediate ceasefire are ignored.
Sharyn Lock, who lives near Campbeltown in Argyll and Bute, is holding her five-day fasting vigil outside of the Scottish Parliament as she also demands UK politicians call for the restoration of vital services to Palestine.
Prior to her midwifery training in the UK, Ms Lock began volunteering in the Middle Eastern country in 2002 after a Jewish friend introduced her to the International Solidarity Movement to support Palestinians.
And in 2009, while volunteering as a first aider with the International Red Cross and Red Crescent humanitarian movement, she was in the Al-Quds hospital in Gaza when it was hit by tank shells and white phosphorous – a substance which the Israel Defence Force denied using at the time.
But with the hospital now under orders to evacuate amid the ongoing conflict, she said a vital difference remains in the survival of civilians, patients and medics taking refuge there – they do not have access to water, electricity or food to keep them going.
About 50,000 pregnant women are thought to be in Gaza, with 5,500 due to give birth later this month, Ms Lock said, however, she has argued it will be unsafe for babies to be born into the environment due to a lack of vital resources.
“The chance of infection there will be almost certain in those circumstances,” she told the PA news agency.
“Babies that need just a little bit of ventilation or a crib to keep them warm using electricity might die because those things aren’t there.
“I think there were about 130 to 160 premature babies depending on technology to get them through the days as they stabilise – but if that technology is not there, if they have to be removed from the hospital, then they won’t live, and that’s on our hands. That is on the hands of the international community.”
Healthcare professionals, including paramedics, doctors and nurses that Ms Lock met during her volunteering, are working in hospitals across Gaza and have managed to communicate “on and off”.
“I know my friends are still alright but they are sending very despairing messages,” she said.
She added: “The healthcare professionals there will be doing their absolute best. I don’t think they’ll have slept or even had a chance to process what they’re trying to do. My heart goes out to them. I just can’t imagine it.
“They were very brave when I was there, but this is 10 times (worse) than what I saw on the scale of numbers and disaster and lack of resources when I was in Al-Quds hospital.
“It had been bombed and it was on fire and snipers were shooting people running towards the hospital – but we had lighting, we could keep all of the machinery going, and we didn’t run out of food while we were there.”
During her protest outside Holyrood, Ms Lock is also calling for the release of both Israeli and Palestinian hostages and prisoners.