New life amid the ruins of Mosul's maternity hospital

MOSUL (Reuters) - As yet unnamed twin babies lie in an incubator in a run-down room in Mosul's main maternity hospital. Less than two weeks old, they are two of seven newborns crammed into a makeshift premature baby ward.

Born just three weeks after Iraqi forces declared that they had finally recaptured the last part of the city from Islamic State, the twins won't know what it's like to grow up under the jihadists' draconian rule. But they are lucky in more ways than one – had they been born months earlier, their chances of survival would have been slim as the hospital's neo-natal wings had been burned down by the militants.

Al-Khansa Hospital in East Mosul may be a shell of its former self but it is still the city's main government-run maternity facility. Last month alone, despite severe shortages of medicines and equipment, it delivered nearly 1,400 babies.

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Mosul's destroyed maternity hospital
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Mosul's destroyed maternity hospital
Interior of a maternity hospital damaged from the war against Islamic State militants in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
People are seen at a maternity hospital, which was damaged from the war against islamic state militants, in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Equipment from an intensive care unit of a maternity hospital, damaged from the war against Islamic State militants, is seen in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A man works to rebuild a maternity hospital damaged from the war against Islamic State militants in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Burnt medicine is seen in a maternity hospital damaged from the war against Islamic State militants in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Equipment from an intensive care unit of a maternity hospital, damaged from the war against Islamic State militants, is seen in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Burnt medicine is seen in a maternity hospital damaged from the war against Islamic State militants in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A view of a maternity hospital damaged from the war against Islamic State militants in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A view of a maternity hospital damaged from the war against Islamic State militants in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Newborn babies are seen at an intensive care unit of a maternity hospital in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A view of a maternity hospital damaged from the war against Islamic State militants in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
Newborn babies are seen at an intensive care unit of a maternity hospital in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
A view of a maternity hospital destroyed from the war against Islamic State militants in east Mosul, Iraq August 15, 2017. Picture taken August 15, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari
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When Islamic State took over Mosul in 2014, the hospital stayed open - but residents were only allowed to use a quarter of it.

"We had all these fighters and their wives coming in and giving birth here," said hospital administrator Dr Aziz, adding that he had lost count of the number of militants' babies delivered in his facility. "Mosul's local residents always came second."

As Iraqi Forces began their campaign to liberate the city from Islamic State control last year, the militants took over al-Khansa, kicking out patients and sometimes shooting at staff to make them leave.

"We kept it open as long as we could," Aziz said.

Islamic State turned the hospital into a warehouse to store medical supplies – mainly glucose injections and cough syrup. As their defeat looked imminent, they started fires and detonated explosives throughout the hospital.

"They knew exactly what to blow up and how to do the most damage," Aziz said, walking through the charred remains of the operating theaters.

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A timeline of the battle for Mosul
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A timeline of the battle for Mosul
A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter looks over as he stands on the top of a humvee in front of an Islamic State militants' position outside the town of Naweran near Mosul, Iraq October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Newly displaced people wait to receive food supplies at a processing center for displaced people In Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises at Islamic State militants' positions in the town of Naweran, near Mosul, Iraq, October 23, 2016. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An Iraqi soldier stands next to a detained man accused of being an Islamic State fighter at a check point in Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq October 30, 2016. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An Iraqi father (L) mourns the death of his son, who was killed during clashes in the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, in al-Samah neighborhood, Iraq December 1, 2016. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People run in panic after a coalition airstrike hit Islamic State fighters positions in Mosul, Iraq, November 17, 2016. Goran Tomasevic: 'I had been to the Tahrir district of eastern Mosul several times while covering the campaign by Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led air strikes to retake the city from Islamic State militants. Covering battles is tough and in this case, it was difficult to get to the frontline at times, but on this day we managed. When we arrived it seemed calm and quiet. Soon after a car blew up in a suicide bombing in an Islamic State counter-attack to the forces' push into Mosul. There were casualties, children screaming, and several nearby houses were destroyed. There were also clashes. I have covered many conflicts in my career, but what has struck me in Mosul is the number of car bombings. The fighting comes in waves and when things eventually quietened down, I saw a group of civilians making the most of a break in gunfire to come out onto the streets. They were both young and elderly, and felt safe enough to leave their homes with few belongings, walking carefully but calmly towards where I was standing capturing the scenes around me. Suddenly an air strike targeted Islamic State positions a few hundred metres away behind them. It was close and total panic ensued. People were screaming, ducking and running away as the plumes of smoke rose nearby. They quickly ran for whatever shelter they could find. I heard the plane just before the airstrike, and from experience knew I had little time. These things happen fast and you have to act quickly. First you have to make sure you are safe, then stay focused so you can get the shot. You get your lens ready and stay calm. It was one airstrike and residents waited it out before finding other shelter. I eventually moved to another location to continue covering the fighting.' REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY SEARCH "2016 PIX" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A member of Iraqi rapid response forces holds a flower during battle with Islamic State militants in the Mithaq district of eastern Mosul, Iraq, January 4, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Displaced people, who fled Islamic State militants, cross the bridge in Al-Muthanna neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq, January 15, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
American army personnel gather at the University of Mosul during a battle with Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A displaced Iraqi boy holds a white flag as his family flees during the battle between Iraqi rapid response forces and Islamic State militants at Tigris river frontline between east and west of Mosul , Iraq, January 25, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An Iraqi Special Forces soldier moves through a hole as he searches for Islamic State fighters in Mosul, Iraq February 27, 2017 REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People who are trying to escape from Mosul walk in front of an Islamic State fighter, Iraq February 28, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
A woman gestures as she approaches Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul, Iraq March 1, 2017 REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An Iraqi special forces soldier fires at a drone operated by Islamic State militants Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel was used by Islamic State militants as an underground training camp in the hillside overlooking Mosul, Iraq, March 4, 2017. Picture taken March 4, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani
A man cries as he carries his daughter while walking from an Islamic State-controlled part of Mosul towards Iraqi special forces soldiers during a battle in Mosul, Iraq March 4, 2017. Reuters Photographer Goran Tomasevic: "Both screaming in terror, a father and the young daughter he cradled in his arm fled through the rubble-strewn streets of Wadi Hajar, transformed in a flash into a battleground between Islamic State fighters and Iraqi special forces. They and their neighbours - some wearing rubber sandals, some barefoot - were running from an IS counter-attack in this part of Mosul, dodging gunfire as the militants closed in. When they reached the special forces lines, males were ordered to lift their shirts to prove they weren't suicide bombers. Some had to take off their clothes or show their belts, though not those carrying children. The father was so beside himself, so panicked. It was obvious because he had a short shirt on and was carrying a child that he wasn?t Islamic State. I believe they will both be taken to a refugee camp." REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic SEARCH "TOMASEVIC FATHER" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A displaced Iraqi woman reacts as she waits in a street for a truck to carry her to a safe place, as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, Iraq March 8, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A displaced Iraqi girl cries before entering Hamam al-Alil camp, as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, south of Mosul, Iraq March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Iraqi rapid response members fire a missile against Islamic State militants during a battle with the militants in Mosul, Iraq, March 11, 2017. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke rises from clashes near Mosul's Al-Habda minaret at the Grand Mosque, where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate back in 2014, as Iraqi forces battle to drive out Islamic state militants from the western part of Mosul, Iraq, March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People walk in front of the remains of the University of Mosul, which was burned and destroyed during a battle with Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
Ameen Mukdad, a violinist from Mosul who lived under ISIS's rule for two and a half years where they destroyed his musical instruments, performs at Nabi Yunus shrine in eastern Mosul, Iraq, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/ Muhammad Hamed
A destroyed room inside an abandoned building is seen in western Mosul, Iraq, April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares SEARCH "EMPTY CASARES" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Cartoon characters defaced by Islamic State militants are seen at a children's hospital, in eastern Mosul, Iraq April 26, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
A members of the Iraqi Federal Police throws a hand grenade during clashes with the Islamic State fighters in western Mosul, Iraq, April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Displaced Iraqis from Mosul wait to cross the Tigris by boat after the bridge has been temporarily closed, at the village of Thibaniya, south of Mosul, Iraq May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Members of Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) forces look at the positions of Islamic State militants during clashes in western Mosul, Iraq, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
A view of a part of western Mosul, Iraq May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
The shadow of a member of the Iraqi Army's 9th Armoured Division is seen as he opens a steel gate to a room used as a cell for men, inside a compound used as a prison by Islamic State militants in July 17 district, in western Mosul, Iraq, June 6, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis SEARCH "KONSTANTINIDIS PRISON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Debris fly as smoke rises after an artillery attack on the Islamic State militants' positions by the Iraqi Army in the Shifa neighbourhood during clashes in western Mosul, Iraq June 15, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Members of the Iraqi army drop leaflets over the old city of Mosul, Iraq, June 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
An Iraqi soldier from the 9th Armoured Division gives drops of water to a dehydrated child rescued earlier by soldiers at the frontline, during the ongoing fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants near the Old City in western Mosul, Iraq, June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro SEARCH "DE CASTRO DEHYDRATED" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
A destroyed al-Hadba minaret at Grand al-Nuri Mosque (L) is pictured through a hole at the Iraqi-held position at the Old City in Mosul, Iraq June 27, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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SHORTAGES OF EVERYTHING

Al-Khansa reopened just weeks after East Mosul was cleared of militants in January. But its needs are still dire.

"We have shortages of everything," said the hospital's director, Dr Jamal Younis. "Beds, equipment, medicines."

At present, the hospital can only handle births and deaths, Younis said. For anything in between, patients have to travel to facilities miles away – an impossible expense for most.

In a hot and crowded room, Um Mohammad sat with her grandson, only a few months old and barely able to move. She said she had been waiting there for 15 days, trying to find $25 to pay for blood tests.

She has been living in a camp since an air strike flattened her house in West Mosul, killing her daughter and five of her grandchildren.

"I can't take him back to the camp without treatment or a diagnosis," she said, "but I don't have the money."

Al-Khansa has yet to receive funds for reconstruction from the Health Ministry. Instead it had been relying on NGOs and donations from residents and staff - most of whom have not been paid for more than two years, since Baghdad cut salaries to choke off funding to Islamic State.

"When the city was under Isis control, we were forced to come into work every day or they would punish us – seize our houses, beat us, threaten our families," said Aziz.

"But now, even though we're still unpaid and the walls have fallen down, we're happy to come in every day to help our community."

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