Women stranded in floods take risky trips to give birth

SEHWAN: Rubina Mallah took a perilous, three-hour boat journey across flood waters to get to the nearest hospital in time to give birth to her baby son, as the roads leading to the clinic in Sehwan were submerged.

The 27-year-old is one of tens of thousands of pregnant women displaced by historic floods that have inundated close to a third of the country and affected 33 million people, many now in camps.

“I was worried that night as the waters from the lake overflowed,” Mallah told Reuters as she cradled her one-day-old son Muhammad Tayyab. Her village, located on the edge of the huge freshwater Manchar Lake, is now underwater.

“My husband brought a boat, I travelled three hours to reach the hospital where my delivery took place.”

Tayyab has started life in a makeshift shelter in a school being built on the outskirts of Sehwan town. It is a common fate as millions of Pakistanis seek safety from rising waters that have flooded homes and fields and destroyed livelihoods.

Mallah’s husband, Mushtaq Mallah, said the family originally decided to stay at home because they had nowhere to go, and so set up camp on their roof.

“My wife then started having labour pains at around 10 at night,” he recalled. “We passed the night in despair; in the morning I brought a boat […] and we reached the hospital.

“It was a journey of despair. Each time the floods come, we become destitute.”

The hospital, Abdullah Shah Institute in Sehwan, is about 15 kilometres from the Mallahs’ home. Ordinarily, it would have been an easy road trip.

But since torrential rains fell through August, the country’s largest freshwater lake has become dangerously close to bursting its banks, even after having been breached in an operation to keep the waters at bay.


Nayla Qureshi, a gynaecologist at the hospital, said its outpatient department was receiving around 150 pregnant women each day from surrounding areas.

Since Tuesday, six women displaced by the floods have delivered babies at the institute, and one patient underwent an emergency C-Section, she told Reuters.

“Our workload has increased. Some of our doctors who belong to different districts are staying here as there is an emergency. Pregnancy is not the (only) issue… women are coming with the psychological trauma of total loss,” Qureshi added.


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