Palestine: The Safe Birth Project

The Problem

Midwife helps a new mother with her baby - c. Jessica AldermanIsraeli-imposed restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement, coupled with intermittent military attacks, threaten the rights and well-being of Palestinian women, with particular consequences to women's reproductive health.

The Israeli military has destroyed or barricaded thousands of roads in the West Bank, making it difficult for Palestinian women who are in labor to reach hospitals.

Ambulances are regularly detained by soldiers at checkpoints. As a result, dozens of Palestinian women have been forced to give birth at Israeli military checkpoints, resulting in the deaths of 20 women and 36 infants.

There has been almost a fivefold increase in the number of pregnant women who received no prenatal care due to military restrictions on the movement of women and healthcare providers.

There has been a dramatic increase in births that take place in unsafe conditions or without a skilled health worker, increasing the danger to women during pregnancy and childbirth, and creating enormous psychological strain for women.  

The Solution

Midwives for Peace is a grassroots group of 24 Palestinian and Israeli midwives supported by MADRE.  The midwives have come together to act on their commitment to their profession and to peace. They are working side by side to:

  • develop updated standards of midwifery practice;
  • create joint professional trainings and workshops for Palestinian and Israeli midwives;
  • and ensure that childbirth is a joyful happy, healthy occasion for every woman.

The Results

  • Maternal and infant mortality are reduced by "safe delivery kits" that MADRE has provided to midwives in the West Bank.
  • The health of mothers and newborns is improved as the midwives provide women with personalized healthcare counseling and postpartum health education on breastfeeding, hygiene, infant care, and family planning. 
  • Women’s access to family planning is expanded. A MADRE delivery of 15,000 condoms was distributed by midwives who offer workshops on preventing unwanted and high-risk pregnancies.
  • Despite the ongoing conflict, Palestinian and Israeli midwives are able to work cooperatively to share skills and midwifery techniques that save lives and improve maternal health.
  • Women have increased access to well-trained midwives in their communities, lowering the risk associated with the difficult trips to the hospitals through heavily barricaded checkpoints.


Palestine: Midwives for Peace | Palestinian Medical Relief Society | Zakher Association

Midwives for Peace

Midwife assisting new mother - © Jessica AldermanMidwives for Peace is a grassroots group of Palestinian and Israeli midwives working together to ensure that childbirth is a joyous and safe experience for women despite the armed conflict that surrounds them. Midwives for Peace saves lives by providing critical pre-natal care and childbirth support to women in the West Bank and Israel.Together, Israeli and Palestinian midwives attend workshops and training sessions, share their best practices and develop an understanding through a common belief that regardless of the conflict raging around them, mothers and newborns – whether Israeli or Palestinian – deserve to be safe.By coming together from opposite sides of the Israel-Palestine border, Midwives for Peace is able to fulfill an urgent humanitarian need, promote reproductive rights and build peace.

Midwives for Peace is one of the groups associated with the Interfaith Encounter Association.

Saving Lives in Occupied Territory

Dedicated to peace and their profession, Midwives for Peace provides midwives with resources, training and a network of professionals dedicated to midwifery. Through Midwives for Peace, The Safe Birth Project enables Palestinian women who are in labor to deliver safely despite Israeli military roadblocks and checkpoints that prevent or dangerously delay them from reaching hospitals in the West Bank.Certified, well-equipped midwives help ensure healthy births for women and their babies. And midwives give women the support they need for a joyful, empowering experience of childbirth.

Providing Resources for Safe Births

MADRE is working with Midwives for Peace to provide “safe birthing” medical kits to ensure a healthy birth. The Safe Birthing Kits include:

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Topical alcohol and alcohol prep pads
  • Obstetric gel
  • Scissors
  • Umbilical cord clamps
  • Syringe bulbs
  • Sterile cotton balls
  • Sterile medical masks
  • Sterile gauze
  • Sterile bed liners
  • Sterile Latex gloves
  • Sterile baby blankets and towels
  • Prenatal vitamins and supplements
  • Physio balls for comfortable delivery
  • Maternity care reading material and birthing books

Training Women’s Health Care Providers

Midwives for Peace conducts trainings for midwives in both Palestine and Israel in order to improve the health of mothers and their newborn babies. In addition to receiving instruction on the best birthing practices at the trainings, midwives also learn how to provide women with personalized health care counseling and postpartum health education on:

  • Breastfeeding
  • Hygiene
  • Baby care
  • Postnatal emergencies
  • Culturally sensitive family planning

MADRE is working with Midwives for Peace to provide women who attend the sessions with contraceptives and literature about family planning. 


Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS)

© MADREThe Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) is a grassroots, community-based Palestinian health organization. PMRS was founded in 1979 by a group of Palestinian doctors and health professionals committed to providing health services to women and families in Palestine.

One of the biggest threats to public health in Palestine is the Israeli military occupation, which has undermined overall health by exacerbating poverty and malnutrition, and blocked people's access to health service by restricting the right to travel - sometimes even from one village to the next. In addition, the Israeli military has launched attacks on hospitals, clinics, ambulances and the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

PMRS programs emphasize prevention, education, community participation, and the empowerment of people. PMRS doctors and health workers believe that health is a starting point for community development. By working with young people and supporting community institutions, PMRS is involved in many aspects of community life.

Providing Health Care for Everyone

PMRS health programs focus on the needs of the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society: women, children, and the poor in rural villages, refugee camps, and urban centers. PMRS runs a network of health care centers, most of which are located in rural and marginalized areas. These centers offer services in general medicine, women's health, child health, the management of chronic diseases, emergency care, and they provide medications. PMRS mobile clinics serve people who cannot access health care centers because of Israeli restrictions on movement, such as military curfews. 


Zakher Association

c.Zakher AssociationZakher Association for the Development of Palestinian Women’s Capacity was founded and is run by women in Gaza. Zakher works in impoverished communities to promote human rights and strengthen women’s abilities to address the medical, economic and social crises that Palestinians face.

Community Health

MADRE is working with the Zakher Association to provide communities in Gaza City with clean and affordable drinking water. Through Clean Water for Gaza, we are installing large water filters in community centers in the neighborhoods of Shejaeya, Sha’af, Al Zitoun, Attufah and Al Sabra, and additional water filters in ten kindergartens. Each community water filter will serve 350 families, and each kindergarten water filter will serve 150 children.

Women’s Health

Since 2006, Zakher has provided women and families with free health care in partnership with the al-Ahli Hospital. For many people, these free health days at the hospital are the only opportunity for health care. Zakher also offers reproductive, sexual and mental health workshops for women. 

Leadership Training and Education

Zakher works to empower women in the community through literacy courses and trainings on human rights, legal and electoral rights and conflict resolution. The organization also provides computer literacy classes to women of all ages. Zakher facilitates a project for women to learn traditional Palestinian embroidery. This project has the dual purpose of providing women with an income-generating skill and preserving a traditional Palestinian art form.Zakher works in kindergartens in Gaza City to build teachers’ knowledge of early childhood education techniques and child development.

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