Woman travels 7 hours by camel to give birth – 05/24/2023 – Equilibrium
When Mona’s contractions began, a camel became her only salvation.
Mona, 19, expected the 40 km journey to the hospital to take four hours from her home high in the Rocky Mountains. But with no roads — suffering labor pains and bad weather — the journey ended up taking seven hours.
“With every step the camel took, I was dying inside,” she says.
When the camel could go no further, Mona dismounted and made the final leg of her journey on foot with her husband.
In Mahweet province, in northwest Yemen, Bani Saad hospital is the only health center still standing for thousands of women. From Mona’s home in the village of Al-Maaqara, access to the facility can only be done over treacherous mountains on camels or on foot.
As she made the challenging journey, Mona feared for her safety and that of her unborn child.
“The road was full of rocks,” she said, recalling the “physically and mentally exhausting trip”.
“There were times I prayed that God would take me away and protect my baby so I could escape the pain.”
Mona doesn’t remember arriving at the hospital, but being filled with hope as she heard her baby cry in the hands of midwives and surgeons.
She, along with her husband, named the baby Jarrah after the surgeon who saved them.
Roads to the hospital from nearby villages are narrow. Some are destroyed or blocked by an eight-year war between pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel movement.
Women, family members or partners often help pregnant women for hours through the hills to the hospital.
Salma Abdu, 33, who was accompanying a pregnant woman, said that in the middle of the trip she saw a pregnant woman who died at night on the way.
Salma is asking people to have mercy on women and children.
“We need roads, hospitals, pharmacies. We are trapped in this valley. Those who are lucky give birth safely. Others die, also having endured the misery of the journey,” she said.
Some families can afford the hospital but don’t have the financial resources to get there.
One woman dies every two hours during childbirth from preventable causes in Yemen, according to Hicham Nahro of the UFNPA (United Nations Population Fund) in Yemen.
Nahro says women in remote areas of Yemen are often unable to get prenatal care or seek help unless they start bleeding or are in severe pain.
Less than half of births are attended by a qualified physician and only a third of births take place in a health facility, according to UNFPA. Two-fifths of Yemen’s population live more than an hour away from the nearest public hospital.
Yemen’s ailing healthcare system was struggling even before the civil war. But the conflict has caused widespread damage to Yemen’s hospitals and roads, making it impossible for families to travel without difficulty.
Hospitals lack staff, equipment and drugs, and investment in roads and infrastructure has stalled.
Only one in five operating facilities can provide reliable maternal and child health services, according to UNFPA.
‘I thought it was the end’
Mona’s story is just one of many cases of difficulties faced by pregnant women in Yemen.
Most people do not own a car in Yemen, where 80% of the population depends on aid.
Hailah’s husband used the little money he saved while working in Saudi Arabia to ensure his wife could travel to the hospital on a motorbike.
When they arrived at the Hadaka health center in Dhamar, Hailah was quickly transferred to the surgical ward.
“I thought this was the end,” said Haila, 30. “There was no way me and my unborn baby could survive.”
She was advised during the early stages of her pregnancy that giving birth at home was not an option due to the risks of severe bleeding and other pregnancy complications.
The doctor at the health center said Hailah and the baby were barely saved.
She named her daughter Amal, which means “hope” in Arabic.
“I almost lost the baby and life became meaningless because of the damn war, but this baby gave me hope,” she said.
With a shortage of international funding, centers like the Bani Saad hospital are under-resourced. Officials fear for the future of mothers and babies, as they are forced to prioritize who has the best chance of saving themselves.
Collaborating with this report Fuad Rajeh and Mohammed Al Qalisi