With more than a million Pakistanis fleeing renewed violence in the Swat Valley, one woman and her family newly arrived to Yar Hussain Mera displacement camp faced an especially difficult ordeal: uprooted from their lives, desperately in need of help, and with a baby about to be born.
“I was worried and afraid when we reached the camp,” recalls the baby’s grandmother, Gul Mina. “We got a tent on the first day but … we needed sleeping mats for our children and my daughter-in-law who was full-term pregnant. I wept several times because we did not have money at home while we had a pregnant lady to take care of.” International Medical Corps mobile health units are providing 24-hour services to the camp and host populations, with a focus on maternal and child care.
Gul Mina, along with her husband, six grandchildren, and the newborn’s mother, Aasia, all reside in their tent in Yar Hussain Mera IDP camp. When the family first arrived and were registered they did not have money for pregnancy expenses, forcing Aasia’s husband to return to their village of Bunir to sell their cow for money.
“I sat quiet and had tears in my eyes when I saw my daughter-in-law in pain,” says the 72-year-old grandmother. “I even could not ask her to bear pain for a little longer while we had no cash in our house. I went to a neighbor to borrow money. My neighbor only had 50 rupees (around 40 cents). She gave me money happily and also accompanied us to the nearby International Medical Corps health clinic. I did not expect the doctors to provide free health services to the poor like us.”
She pointed to Dr. Ghaffor, an officer with International Medical Corps’ mobile unit who was visiting to check on the mother’s and child’s health: “This is the man who rushed to us and sent a woman nurse to examine my daughter-in-law. They did not waste a single minute and referred us to a nearby hospital. The doctor transported us in an ambulance which took us to a hospital. It was all for free and I found them extremely helpful and supportive.”
Gul Mina’s son, Umer Mujahid, chimed in: “I am thankful to International Medical Corps and its staff as it saved us 12 to 15 thousand rupees (around $200) that a private hospital would have charged us for the delivery at this crucial time. After the baby was born (on May 15) the hospital doctors told us that we can take the mother and child back to the camp. I called International Medical Corps and they immediately sent the ambulance which took us back to our tent.”
Sitting in the tent, holding her grandson in her lap while Aasia rested nearby, Gul Mina smiled and said, “Now, I have fewer words to express my happiness. …I celebrate this happy occasion more because, with the birth of his grandson, my husband has forgotten the miseries that we have endured during the past few days. Now, I see a smile on his face.”
The family was so grateful, Umer Mujahid said, that he asked International Medical Corps’ staff to name the newborn. “You all are educated and you all are very supportive to us and my nephew, therefore, we would be glad if you would suggest a name for him.”
The name they selected: Bilal, or “chosen one”.