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Born on the run: pregnant women forced to flee in Iraq

Layla*, 3 days old, at Hamam al-Alil IDP camp in Iraq

Young Iraqi mothers fleeing ISIS give birth anywhere they can

With the battle for West Mosul still raging, and ISIS increasingly using civilians as human shields as coalition airstrikes continue, many expectant mothers are fleeing for their lives – in some cases even giving birth on the run.

Layla* is just three days old and was born in the ruins of an abandoned house, with shelling and shooting all around.

Her 17-year-old mother Rehab* was just days away from her due date when fighting in her neighbourhood became unbearable, forcing her and her family to flee in the middle of the night.

In labour on the road

Rehab fell repeatedly as they tried to escape and went into labour hours into the journey.

“I went into labour on the road. I was very scared for me and my baby but my mother and another older woman helped me,” said Rehab. “It was very quick, maybe just 15 minutes. We rested for about another 30 minutes and then we started running again.”

The family is now in Hamam Al Alil reception centre, the main focal point for those fleeing Mosul, where more than 242,000 have been registered since the offensive began.

Most people are relocated quickly, but with thousands arriving every day and more than 320,000 people displaced since the Mosul offensive began six months ago, families, many with young children, are falling through the gaps.

Save the Children is distributing water, toiletries and newborn kits in the camps and have built and continue to clean latrines in the reception centre.

Lubna*, 20 days old, at Hamam al-Alil IDP camp in Iraq

20-day-old Lubna’s mother fled due to heavy fighting

Lubna*’s mothers Reem*, 15, fled Mosul with her mother Masa*, 35, due to heavy fighting, shortly after giving birth to Lubna. Reem said: “I have been married for a little over a year and this is my first child. She is just 20 days old and we have been in the reception centre for almost two weeks now. Giving birth was very difficult and it took me two whole days. I have felt very weak since. I am feeling a little better now, but I am still not well and the conditions here are difficult.”

“Her delivery was very hard, very hard indeed, but there was nothing we could do because of the fighting. We wanted to leave Mosul,” says Masa. “My brother has been killed and we wanted to go but Reem was too weak, so we stayed for five days and then we left and walked to safety. Thank god Lubna is healthy but we are very worried about her and that she will get sick in a place like this.”

Donate now to help babies like Layla & Lubna

Funding is needed for the displaced new mothers

Save the Children’s Deputy County Director Aram Shakaram says: “The situation inside the reception centre is extremely poor and there is a widespread shortage of food, water and blankets. Whole families sleep on nothing but cardboard, huddling together for warmth at night.

“Very young babies, many just days or weeks old are living in these conditions and their mothers, some who are as young as 15, are not getting the support they need. With 325,000 people still displaced since the Mosul offensive began and thousands still fleeing every day, it is imperative that we get more funding to support new mothers and their extremely vulnerable children who are starting their lives off in camps.”

Save the Children provides education and psychosocial support to children displaced from Mosul and our child protection teams work in the reception centres to identity cases needing urgent assistance, like unaccompanied minors.

What could your donation do?

Since the offensive began, we have distributed 3,740 newborn care packages, which have reached almost 11,500 infants. We have also distributed 7,000 rapid response kits that have reached almost 33,000 people and contain essentials like food, water and toiletries for the newly displaced. In addition we are also working to provide clean drinking water and basic sanitation to tens of thousands of people who have fled from Mosul.

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