Babies are being “delivered into hell” in Gaza with many others likely dying as a result of conflict with Israel and increasingly dire conditions in the enclave, UN humanitarians warned on Friday.

Reiterating urgent international calls for a ceasefire, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that there have been nearly 20,000 births since the start of widespread Israeli bombardment, in response to Hamas-led attacks in Israel that left some 1,200 dead and approximately 250 taken hostage.

Chronic aid access problems have meant that Caesarean sections have been performed without anaesthetic while other women have been unable to deliver their stillborn babies because medical staff are overwhelmed, the UN agency said.

“Mothers face unimaginable challenges in accessing adequate medical care, nutrition, and protection before, during and after giving birth,” said UNICEF Communications Specialist Tess Ingram.

“Becoming a mother should be a time for celebration. In Gaza, it’s another child delivered into hell.”