New Life amid Floods


The celebration of a new life is always synonymous with hope for a better tomorrow, but what to do when a never-before-seen, climatically-induced disaster has already torn down your home, stripped away your valuables: forcing you to sustain on a slow trickle of aid? Pregnancy may well be an afterthought in relief measures in the wake of an unusually vicious monsoon season. However, alarm bells set ringing by United Nations Population Fund warn us that at least 73,000 Pakistani women are expected to deliver babies in the flood-impacted areas this month.
Around 577, 000 more are trudging a little behind, but all of them are in severe need of maternal health care. A viral video of a newborn child miraculously discovered hours after raging water had swept his mother away in Taunsa was only the beginning of what over half-a-million pregnant women might have to face if the authorities do not act fast. The reproductive health agency has already called out the need for “skilled birth attendants, newborn care, and support.” Since over 1,000 health facilities across Sindh and 198 in affected districts of Balochistan have taken a bad hit, there’s no telling how the state (no matter its determination) would be able to guarantee the provision of life-saving services. Our bleak statistics when it comes to maternal mortality rate (186 deaths per 100,000 live births) could not shoulder such a burden on an ideal day.
But now that the roads have gone missing, it would be toxically optimistic to assume that these women would even get their hands on the unreliable (often criminally damaging) expertise of midwives, let alone qualified doctors and hospital care. While the resilience of our women manages to surprise many, dramatic birth stories are only the beginning. Even the most robust survivor cannot fight off the displacement stress, physical weakness, and strain of childbirth on top of deadly outbreaks, on her own. The onslaught of water-borne diseases has already started.
Despite thousands of medical camps and the procurement of mobile units, containing the risks, especially in Sindh, is easier said than done. Malnourishment remains yet another minefield because as the provision of high-quality food (or, any food) gets difficult, the expecting mothers’ nutritional needs become all the greater. And their survival against all odds does not say the same about the star-crossed children having to take the first few breaths in an upside-down world.
The UN agency’s commitment to maternal and neonatal care is nothing short of a blessing and local organisations should follow suit. The last few days have seen know-it-all forces of patriarchy spearhead a heated campaign against feminine hygiene products drive. Self-proclaimed experts vehemently decried these products as a “luxury,” living under the illusion that somehow a woman’s biological clock runs on their whims. Before they launch yet another tirade against the needs of pregnant and postpartum women, Daily Times begs to clarify that childbirth, too, cannot stop for the disaster to run its course.