Giving birth on the frontline

The impact of the drawn out conflict on ordinary people in Sirte was brought into sharp focus for us last night when a mother had to give birth on the frontline.

The impact of the drawn out conflict on ordinary people in Sirte was brought into sharp focus for us last night. We had swung by the field hospital on the way back from the fighting on the frontline to ask the surgeon about casualty figures.

We had seen and heard ambulances rushing backwards and forwards all day so feared the toll was high. The doctor shook his head and said it had been a bad day.

Two of the commanders fighting on the northern flank close to the port had been killed by sniper bullets and he had treated many shrapnel injuries.

Then he added that they had also had a labour to deal with. I thought I’d misheard him.

A labour? As in a birth? Yes, he said. A pregnant woman had escaped the fighting in Sirte and was staying in one of the houses behind the field hospital. She was three days overdue and was suffering complications.&nbsp

I asked if he was up for delivering a baby. He turned as white as a sheet. He had dug out countless bullets and dealt with the most horrific battlefield injuries for months now but the idea of delivering a baby scared the life out of him.&nbsp

Thankfully there was a local midwife on hand. He was hopeful she could manage without his services. I asked if I could see her.

I am lucky enough to have a camerawoman with me, so talking to women is a much easier prospect, than trying to allow a male crew in – because of cultural sensitivities.

The doctor said he thought he should be ok and sent us off with the ambulance chosen to pick her up and rush her down the road to Ras Lanuf, the nearest hospital an hour and a half away. We followed the ambulance to the house.

The driver and fighters on board,&nbspstill carrying their AK47s, saw this mission as urgent as any they had dealt with in the past six months of conflict.&nbsp By the time we got to the house it was pitch black.

The male members of the family came out. They explained how the hospital in Sirte had no electricity, little water and was low on medical supplies.

They were reluctant to allow us in. Understandable, given what they had been through and their concerns for a safe delivery.&nbsp

The &nbspbrother eventually said we were welcome to film as she was transferred to the ambulance that was to rush her to hospital. Moments later a scream rang out through the darkness. She was already in labour.

We retreated not wanting to be a burden at such a sensitive time. The next morning we were at the hospital getting fuel from the tank stationed to keep the ambulances on the road.

We asked the gaggle of doctors and staff hanging around reception if she had made it to the hospital. They all smiled broadly. Mother and baby were doing fine.

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