Via The Guardian: Midwife in Haiti tells of delivering babies knee-deep in water by torchlight. Excerpt:
A midwife in Jérémie, Grand’Anse, one of the worst-hit towns in Haiti during Hurricane Matthew, has told how she delivered six babies, two boys and four girls, in a blackout during the night of the storm.
Marie-Lyrette Casimir, a midwife at St Antoine hospital, worked by flashlight as the fiercest Caribbean storm in almost a decade ripped though the south-west tip of the country, killing more than 500 people and causing widespread devastation.
Casimir, who was trapped in the hospital with her patients for hours after the storm, due to rising floodwater, said: “During the deliveries, the mothers were saying: ‘Miss Casimir, please save us. You’re going to save us.’ I was worried a lot, but I tried to calm them down, to be reassuring. I said to them: ‘Even in this desperate situation, you have to play your role, in the interests of the baby.’”
In a town where 80% of the buildings have reportedly been destroyed, St Antoine’s maternity unit, housed in one of three buildings that make up the hospital, emerged relatively unscathed. One of the hospital’s adjacent buildings was flattened by winds of up to 145mph, the other suffered extensive damage.
Casimir, who works for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), described how windows were shattered and doors wrenched off their hinges during the storm and, amid fears the building itself would collapse, mothers were screaming and crying. There were two nurses in the ward that night, but she was the only midwife, she told the Guardian.
“I was very sad and worried … At first, the wind wasn’t very strong but the hurricane became really strong around midnight.”
When a power cut plunged the hospital into total darkness, she carried on using a rechargeable lamp and a flashlight, she said. “I was afraid, there was a lot of noise and I was worried I could be injured. But I had to stay – my work was to help women give life.”
Casimir, 46, said that by dawn the floodwater in the hospital had reached her knees. At one point she had to raise the bed in the delivery room, which was becoming contaminated with floodwater.
But her fears that falling debris or, worse, the collapse of the building, could risk all their lives, went unrealised. “I’m very proud of what I achieved that night. There were no deaths. The deliveries went well and none of the babies needed to go to paediatric care. Everything was great.”
Casimir’s story emerged after an assessment by the UNFPA and Haiti’s ministry of women’s affairs revealed the scale of devastation in Grand’Anse and Nippes, two of the country’s hardest-hit departments. It found most of the population affected were living in appalling conditions, with 176,000 in temporary shelters. Almost 100% of crops were destroyed in what is one of this impoverished country’s most fertile areas.
Up to 1.4 million people, 40% of them children, are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to a report (pdf) by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), with 806,000 people being at what it described as at “extreme-impact level” of food security (near-famine conditions), mainly in Grand’Anse and Sud. A further million people were at a “very high” or “high” level, it said.