When Nur Ankiz began feeling pain in her abdomen, she knew she was about to give birth. At first, the pain seemed normal to the mother of 12. It turned out to be anything but.

Nur Ankiz fell to the floor in a full-body spasm, screaming out in agony. She was lying on the dirt floor of the makeshift lean-to when her husband returned with a midwife. Like most Rohingya women living in this Bangladesh refugee camp, Nur Ankiz planned to give birth in her home with the help of a local midwife.

Nur Ankiz sits on the floor of her home in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh
Nur Ankiz sits on the floor of her home in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh.

Women do this for the comfort and privacy that home deliveries afford.

But nowhere is the risk of dying from pregnancy-related complications more likely than in a disaster zone or refugee camp.

Nur Ankiz had passed out from the pain when her husband Eliyas found her. After unsuccessfully trying to carry her to a different location, Eliyas and the midwife sought a Medical Teams International Community Health Worker.

Outside, darkness blanketed the camp, accentuating an otherworldly quietness. Just a few lights flickered in the distance. With little more than the stars above to guide her, the Community Health Worker tracked down a female doctor. Meanwhile, a small group of people had gathered at Nur Ankiz’s house and were able to carry her to the nearby clinic.

Nur Ankiz was in terrible pain and bleeding. The doctor assessed her before delivering devastating news. The pregnant woman was suffering from a series of life-threatening conditions.

Eliyas stood by his wife, a stone-footed stance as he worried for her. And then the unthinkable.

Nur Ankiz delivered a stillborn baby. This was the life Nur Ankiz was supposed to carry into the world. She cried at the news her baby had died.

The doctor consoled Nur Ankiz, saying that although her baby had passed, at least she was alive. The doctor was able to stop Nur Ankiz’s bleeding and prevent shock and sepsis from setting in. She’d saved Nur Ankiz’s life.

Several days later, Nur Ankiz reflected on her situation.

“I’m very sad to lose my baby,” she said, “but I’m thankful that I’m alive and I’ll be able to look after all my children.”

The Joy of a Clinic Birth

An estimated four out of five Rohingya women are like Nur Ankiz, unwilling to deliver their babies under the supervision of a trained doctor. Her story underscores the dangers pregnant women face in refugee camps.

But your support helps to tip the ratio in the opposite direction. It provides vital health information to educate pregnant women about the risks of giving birth at home.

Khusida was the first woman to successfully give birth at a Medical Teams International clinic. Like Nur Ankiz, Khusida initially called for a midwife to help her give birth at home. But when the baby wouldn’t come and the pain worsened, she made the quick decision to seek help at the clinic.

Labor was long and difficult.

But after several hours, she held her baby in her arms.

Her husband Toyob spoke of the relief he felt as he watched the tiny baby gasping and crying out.

“I wasn’t sure about coming to the clinic with my wife at first,” he said, “but when I saw the situation was getting worse, I knew I had to do it. I can’t describe how happy I am to see our baby delivered safely. I could never have imagined this in my home country of Myanmar.”

Khusida said she was scared at first to come to the clinic.

Nur Ankiz smiling and holding her newborn baby in a Medical Teams International clinic

“I never wanted to deliver in an unfamiliar environment. I was missing my home. The room looked dark with scary-looking medical equipment. But as soon as the doctor started speaking to me I started to relax. I knew it was important for my safety that I receive the support of doctors who are experts in this. I am very happy that both my baby and I are safe.”

More of these successful live births will take place. Our goal is to minimize the risks pregnant women face by promoting preventative care and clinic births. 

Rohingya refugees escaped violence and persecution in Myanmar. They want nothing more than an ounce of normalcy and familial love in the midst of hardship. You can help ensure the message of safe birthing practices resonate throughout the refugee camps of Bangladesh.

Your support can make a profound difference, empowering pregnant women to make informed health decisions. Consider making a donation to help more pregnant women in need.