According to a recent estimate by the United Nations Population Fund, more than 650,000 pregnant women have been displaced across Pakistan because of the havoc unleashed by the monsoon-related floods. Social constraints are causing women in desperate need of maternal health services to refuse care from male doctors serving in emergency response teams across the country.
Many displaced persons are in the province of Sindh, where the Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS) has 47 health centres. When floods washed away homes – mostly made out of mud and straw – and forced scores of people to flee their villages across rural Sindh, one such community found refuge in Khyber, a town about an hour’s drive from the city of Hyderabad.
Yasmin, who has worked with AKHS since 1999, is a Lady Health Visitor at the Aga Khan Health Centre, Khyber. When two full-term pregnant women from this displaced community visited Yasmin, complaining of labour pains, she examined them and delivered their babies in the safe and sanitary environment of the health centre.
According to Yasmin, both women were scared and nervous being cast into an uncertain situation, especially because they were pregnant, but having their babies delivered by Yasmin lifted a huge burden off their shoulders. The mothers and newborns remained at the health centre until they could be safely discharged.
“I am happy that I could be of some help during this catastrophe and I am glad that I could ease the worries of my patients and provide them a safe birthing experience,” says Yasmin. “They have lost all their homes and possessions but they have found hope; babies bring hope even in the worst of circumstances.”