By Heba Kanso
BEIRUT, April 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Pregnant women fleeing western Mosul where Islamic State are defending their last stronghold against Iraqi troops, are in some cases giving birth on the run, raising concerns about the health of mothers and newborns, an aid agency said on Wednesday.
The eastern half of Mosul is reported to be completely under the control of Iraqi security forces, which began its campaign to regain control of one of Iraq's biggest cities last October.
But the push against Islamic State in western Mosul is bogged down with Iraqi government forces fighting in a warren of small streets in the old part of the city.
Save the Children, which spoke to a 17-year-old Iraqi who gave birth as she fled fighting and another teenager who gave birth while trapped inside her home in Mosul, said there could be many more such cases.
It warned of dire health consequences for mothers and newborns.
"Some could die simply because of lack of food, lack of clothes, and lack of hygiene," Save the Children's deputy country director for Iraq, Aram Shakaram, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Erbil.
Seventeen-year-old Rehab, who gave birth in an abandoned building, told the charity she went into labour on the road.
"I was very scared for me and my baby, but my mother and another older woman helped me. It was very quick, maybe just 15 minutes," Save the Children quoted her as saying.
"We rested for about another 30 minutes and then we started running again."
The aid agency said the other young mother, 15-year-old Reem, was in labour for more than two days, trapped in her home in western Mosul. After regaining her strength from giving birth, she also fled with other members of her family.
Both families were able to get to Hamam Al Alil camp, about 20 km (15 miles) south of Mosul where 242,000 people have been registered since the offensive started, Save the Children said.
"The situation inside the reception centre is extremely poor and there is a widespread shortage of food, water and blankets," Shakaram said in a statement.
"Whole families sleep on nothing but cardboard, huddling together for warmth at night."
More than 320,000 people have been displaced since the start of the Mosul offensive, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
(Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)