By: Annabelle Timsit, The Washington Post, as reported in Reader Supported News
March 14, 2022: A pregnant woman, her face pale, lies on a stretcher. Her left hip is covered in blood as she is rushed out of a hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which had just been hit by an airstrike.
The gripping picture, captured by photographer Evgeniy Maloletka for the Associated Press, encapsulated the toll on civilians of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was shared, and the strike condemned, around the world — but little was known about the woman herself.
Now, the AP reports that the woman and her baby died in horrific conditions in the aftermath of the attack on the hospital — arriving for surgery with her pelvis crushed and hip detached.
Surgeon Timur Marin told the AP that medics delivered the baby via Caesarean section but that the infant showed “no signs of life.”
The woman, whose name has not been revealed publicly, is part of a civilian death toll from the war in Ukraine that the United Nations puts at 596, although it said it “believes that the actual figures are considerably higher.”
The woman’s story illustrates the perilous situation facing those who are pregnant in Ukraine, where at least 31 attacks on health-care facilities or equipment have been documented by the World Health Organization since the start of Russia’s assault 2½ weeks ago.
According to the United Nations, “80,000 Ukrainian women are expected to give birth in the next three months while oxygen and medical supplies, including for the management of pregnancy complications, are running dangerously low.”
In Mariupol, a southern port in Ukraine that officials say has been under Russian bombardment for days, a maternity hospital was hit Wednesday. Ukrainians blamed Russian forces; Moscow has claimed without evidence that the hospital was emptied of patients and used as a base for Ukrainian military activity.
Videos and photos taken at the scene show children and injured pregnant women being led away from the hospital after the attack. Mariupol’s city council said Thursday that three people, including a child, were killed, while 17 — among them children, women and medical workers — were injured. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack an “atrocity.”
“What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals and maternity hospitals and destroys them?” Zelensky said in a video address late Wednesday. Global leaders condemned the attack, with Britain’s minister for the armed forces, James Heappey, calling it a “war crime.”
Among the photos and videos that circulated in the aftermath of the attack, one featured the pregnant woman being evacuated on a stretcher amid the rubble.
She was sent to another hospital, the AP reported, drawing on testimony from medics and the surgeon who treated her. The woman reportedly told medics to “kill me now” when she realized that she was losing her baby.
The woman’s surgeon said attempts were made for “more than 30 minutes” to resuscitate her but that in the end, she and her baby “both died.” Her body was picked up from the hospital, medics told the AP, but they were not able to record the woman’s name.
Another injured pregnant woman who was captured by photographers fleeing the maternity hospital gave birth on Friday, according to AP photos. In one, Mariana Vishegirskaya, wearing the same top as when she was pictured walking down the stairs of the Mariupol hospital after the strike, holds her newborn daughter close to her chest as she lies on a hospital bed.
International organizations say the attack on the Mariupol maternity hospital was not the first.
In a joint statement published Sunday, the leaders of the WHO, the United Nations Population Fund and UNICEF demanded an end to attacks on health-care facilities or equipment.
“To attack the most vulnerable — babies, children, pregnant women, and those already suffering from illness and disease, and health workers risking their own lives to save lives — is an act of unconscionable cruelty,” their statement says.