No home, no hospital, but not without help: Supporting mothers and babies affected by the Pakistan floods

Salma * and Pani * wait with other mothers and their children for treatment in Pakistan

Mothers with their new babies wait to be seen at a mobile clinic supported by DEC charity CAFOD in Sindh.

The devastating floods in Pakistan washed away not only homes but damaged livelihoods, schools and health centres. Among the millions of people affected were an estimated 650,000 women in need of maternity services. Many were due to give birth before Christmas - tens of thousands of them with nowhere to call home and without access to a hospital.

DEC charities are working in flood-affected areas providing food, clean water, shelter and healthcare. Where pregnant women, new mothers and their babies are unable to access healthcare, medical teams are going out in mobile clinics, providing vital health services in areas where people are sheltering. 

“My first child, a son, was born during the heavy rains.”

Salma 22, and her baby receiving treatment in Pakistan

Salma received postnatal support through a mobile health clinic run by DEC charity CAFOD.

The floods damaged or destroyed over 1,400 health centres and around 12,000 kilometres of roads and bridges, which means many women have been unable to access a functioning hospital when they go into labour.

Salma was one of them. “My first child, a son, was born during the heavy rains. I was unable to travel to the city to give birth," she says. Luckily, she found a local midwife who delivered the baby, even though they had no way of paying her.

Salma is one of the many women who received postnatal support through a mobile health clinic run by DEC charity CAFOD. The clinics are vans set up with medical equipment, stocked with essential medicines, and run by a team of medics who travel every day to hard-to-reach areas, providing basic healthcare to communities who would otherwise struggle to access support. 

CAFOD’s mobile clinics aimed to reach 20,000 people in the first three months after the floods, while other DEC charities are running similar projects to meet the health needs of vulnerable people.

Mobile health clinic in Pakistan

"You can see the rubble of my home behind this tent."

Noor gave birth to her baby soon after her house collapsed in the floods.

Noor gave birth to her baby soon after her house collapsed in the floods.

Shelter and food are two of the most pressing issues for mothers who have lost everything in the floods. 

Noor, who lives in Sindh, one of the worst-affected provinces, was nine months pregnant when her house collapsed in the heavy rains. She and her children only escaped with the help of neighbours who came to rescue them. Her baby was born soon afterwards, at a time when the family had nowhere to live, no food stores to draw on, and no income.

“Save the Children provided us with the tent we’re living in now. You can see the rubble of my home behind this tent. Save the Children provided me with food rations that had lentils and rice, and that lasted for a month.”

With DEC funding, Save the Children are providing food to 2,000 families in the first six months after the floods, and tents to over 3,000 families. Other DEC charities are providing similar support in flood affected areas across the country, ensuring flood survivors are able to get through the crisis.

“My husband took me to hospital on a motorbike in the rain"

Jhaini sits with her new born baby under a temporary shelter, Pakistan

Jhaini and her baby are seen at a mobile clinic run by CAFOD.

The aftermath of the floods has seen a rise in waterborne diseases such as cholera, typhoid and acute watery diarrhoea as bacteria spreads through dirty water and puts lives at risk. In addition, mosquitoes have bred in the stagnant waters, spreading malaria and dengue fever.

When Jhaini went into labour, her husband took her to hospital on the back of a motorbike in the pouring rain. She delivered a healthy baby boy and was discharged from hospital with nowhere to go but a makeshift shelter overlooking the floodwaters.

After the birth, both Jhaini and her baby were sick and feverish. They were seen at one of CAFOD’s mobile clinics. 

“Most of our patients face problems due to contaminated water in the area,” says Dr Anila, a medic at one of the mobile clinics. “Pregnant women face significant challenges in these conditions. We try to provide them with check-ups, blood tests, basic medicines and supplements such as multivitamins.”

“We are doctors. We have to serve our community”

Dr. Abeer treating children at a camp

Dr Rabel treats a child at a camp for displaced people, through a mobile clinic supported by Concern Worldwide.

Dr Rabel works in a maternal and child healthcare centre supported by DEC charity Concern Worldwide. The clinic provides free delivery services, ultrasound scans, family planning services and care for newborn babies and children under five.

When we spoke to Dr Rabel she was heavily pregnant herself. Despite this, she was travelling over 80 miles a day on circuitous routes and treacherous roads to get to work. 

“We are doctors. We have to serve our community, our nation. We are proud to make sacrifices. Each day I see over a hundred women. We have delivered 147 babies in the last month. We are helping free of charge. These are very, very poor people. Shelterless, homeless. Their homes are destroyed. Nothing is left.”

Dr Rabel also does outreach work visiting homeless communities living in tents that cannot reach the centre. 

When asked what she hoped for for her baby, and all the babies she delivers, Dr Rabel said, “Healthy mothers and healthy children. We are working for that.”

The work of DEC charities is making a huge difference to mothers and babies born in the aftermath of the devastating floods in Pakistan. Donations to the DEC Pakistan Floods Appeal will allow them to reach more communities providing vital health services and other critical aid in the months ahead.