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Last Updated: Friday, 23 September 2005, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
UN fears over checkpoint births
Palestinian women at Israeli checkpoint
Palestinians, including women, are subject to rigorous checks
More than 60 Palestinian women have given birth at Israeli checkpoints since 2000 and 36 of their babies have died as a result, says a UN report.

Prepared by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, it examines the impact of the checkpoints on pregnant women.

The report says the delays force women to give birth unaided and some women and their children die as a result.

Israel says it has imposed restrictions on movement in the West Bank and Gaza to cut down on militant attacks.

It adds that in the past ambulances have been used to transport weapons and militia, and women have also taken part in suicide bombings.

Deadly delay

The report on Palestinian women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints was prepared with information gathered by several UN agencies and bodies.

2000/2001 - 31 women
2002 - 16 women
2003 - 8 women
2004 -6 women
Source: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) says Palestinian health ministry figures indicate that 61 Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints between September 2000 and December 2004.

It says that between 2000 and 2001, 31 pregnant women delivered babies and 17 of their newborns died during the process.

In 2002, 16 women gave birth in similar conditions and 11 of their babies died.

The UN Population Fund, UNFPA, said the travel restrictions meant Palestinians often could not reach and use essential medical facilities.

"As a result of the increased security procedures at checkpoints ..., access of the Palestinian people to hospitals and medical facilities has been significantly impaired," the UNFPA said in the report.

In data gathered separately to the WHO's, it said it had recorded more than 70 cases of women in labour who had been delayed at checkpoints since 2001.

Delays, it said, "resulted in unattended and risky roadside births, causing maternal as well as newborn death."

According to the UN Palestine refugee agency, UNRWA, 15 pregnant women were forced to wait up to 2.5 hours at checkpoints in 2004. A further eight women have been delayed so far in 2005.

It said that in some cases the women who did cross had to be transferred between different ambulances on either side of the checkpoint.

Neither the Israeli government nor the Palestinian authority provided official figures for the report despite requests, the UN said.

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