The devastating floods that hit Pakistan in August left over 30 million people homeless. Among them there are 138,000 pregnant women who are afraid for their future and their children’s future – there are no good conditions in humanitarian camps to give birth and care for newborns.
Rubina Mallah, 27, began to experience labor pains in the evening, in a tent that her husband, Mushtaq, pitched on the roof of their joint home. The lower floors were completely flooded by the shores of Lake Manchar. Although the moment of delivery was getting closer, the woman had no way to get to the hospital – all roads leading to the city of Sehwan, 15 kilometers away, were impassable. In the morning it was too late to think – Mushtaq helped his wife get into the boat, and then they went on a three-hour, dangerous journey to the hospital, where the woman gave birth to a healthy son.
The story of Rubina Mallah is just one of many similar stories that take place in Pakistan as a result of the floods that flooded a third of the country in August. The United Nations Population Fund reported that 138,000 of those in need of humanitarian aid are pregnant women. 40,000 of them will be born in September – many of them in shelters for evacuees, without privacy and access to basic hygiene measures.
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Inappropriate food, dirty bathrooms
According to Ameeran, a 29-year-old pregnant woman from Sindh Province, the flood forced her and her family to leave their home village and take refuge in a relief camp in Karachi, the provincial capital. The roads were flooded with rain, and it took her family three days to reach the city. As it turned out, the conditions in the camp were not adapted to the needs of pregnant women.
“I’m not used to eating such fatty and spicy foods, it makes my stomach bloat and causes heartburn,” she says. – I try not to eat it, but I have no other choice.
– It’s been two weeks in this relief camp and I have never been able to eat anything proper. I feel dizzy all the time – complains 18-year-old Rubina, who is seven months pregnant. – The bathrooms are also very dirty.
Women also experience discomfort related to the lack of privacy. In evacuation camps, people and their animals live side by side in cramped conditions, without sanitation. Many women find it upsetting to share their living space with strangers. Mansha, 40, does not sleep all night because sleeping in a room in the presence of unrelated men makes her uncomfortable.
“I’m sick and so is my baby”
Ayesha Arbelo had a dramatic time when she began to feel the pains of childbirth when a flood attacked a village in Sindh Province where she lived. The woman went to a tent shelter for evacuees near the city of Sehwan, about 84 kilometers from her hometown. In the shelter, her well-being worsened. As she described, her father took her on a motorcycle to a hospital 45 minutes away, where she gave birth to a daughter by caesarean section. Arbelo returned with the newborn to the shelter where her father, three sisters and three brothers live apart from them. The woman’s husband has been living in the Punjab province for two years, where he left for work.
– Sometimes we don’t eat for two days. I have no milk to breastfeed my baby. I am sick and so is my child – said the woman. The local doctor diagnosed the newborn with a pulmonary embolism. As he said, there are more patients with children under six months of age who are unable to feed their own milk due to malnutrition.
UNFPA said it is trying to reach out to women who are due this month with help as soon as possible. The organization wants to send mobile teams and set up temporary hospitals in the shelters.
According to WHO, humanitarian aid needs more than 6.4 million people in flooded areas.
A third of Pakistan has been flooded since the end of August. About 1,400 people, including hundreds of children, were killed. The cataclysm affected 33 of the country’s 220 million inhabitants. During the monsoon rainfall of July and August, 391 liters of water per square meter fell across Pakistan. This is almost 190 percent of the 30-year average. In the area of the Sindh province, it was recorded by 466 percent. rain more than average.
Reuters, PAP, tvnmeteo.pl
Main photo source: Reuetrs