Pregnant women caught in floods in dire need of aid

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2022

FAZILPUR: With a swollen belly, aching feet and her four-year-old daughter in tow, Fahmidah Bibi keeps an eye out for a doctor who is rumoured to be due a visit at the campsite she now calls home, after being forced to flee her village because of flooding.

The camp, in the grounds of a small railway station on the outskirts of Fazilpur in Punjab province, is the only high ground in a landscape of water, and accommodates around 500 people.

They include Fahmidah, 40, who arrived with her five children just over a week ago, along with her husband´s relatives. “I need a doctor or a midwife. What if something happens to my child?” Fahmidah -- nine months pregnant and due any day -- told AFP at the weekend. The United Nations Population Fund said Saturday at least 128,000 pregnant women in flood-hit areas urgently need care -- with 42,000 expected to give birth in the next three months.

Fahmidah sleeps in the open, sharing a traditional wooden charpoy bed with her five children, aged four to 12. The sprawling makeshift station campsite is home to at least five other pregnant women. They all complain of a lack of women doctors and midwives to help them.

Most of the women have resisted being examined by volunteer male doctors who have visited with aid convoys. Desperate for attention, Fahmidah tried striking out across flooded fields to reach the city for help, but slipped and fell multiple times and eventually gave up. She pales at the thought of giving birth at the campsite, where stranded villagers and their livestock live side-by-side without sanitation. Like Fahmidah, five-months pregnant Saira Bibi is desperate for a doctor -- she has been experiencing shooting pain along the side of her belly. Just 25 years old, Saira already has four daughters, but is under pressure from her husband and his family to produce a son. He has threatened to get another wife if she fails him again. “I had a son after four daughters, but he died,” she told AFP, adding that she subsequently underwent fertility treatment for ten months to get pregnant again. Now, her desperate situation has put her chances of carrying this pregnancy to term in jeopardy. While Saira prays to successfully deliver a healthy boy, Fahmidah has decided to name the baby Ali Raza, and hopes that he will grow up to be an important government officer and take her on to Makkah,” she says.