Giving birth in Camp Moria

The evening shift of the two doctors, one nurse and a member of the PSS-team (Psycho Social team) was quiet. There were 38 patients that visited during the shift, mostly having sleeping problems, stomach pains or just feeling sick. These symptoms are often expressions of underlying serious problems like trauma, depression and stress related to the events in their home country and constantly being on the run while seeking safety and security.

When the night shift team arrives at the camp it’s quiet at the medical cabin. A few patients come and go and at 2.00 AM all the patients have left. When the translators have finished their shift, they go ‘home’ to the cabin they stay at in the camp. The rest of the team lies down on the stretchers in the medical cabin, ready to be alert if an emergency presents itself.

At 4.20 AM there is banging on the cabin door. A young Syrian woman is standing in front of the door asking in limited English if a doctor can come with her because there’s a baby on the way. The doctor and nurses run with her, crossing the dark, noisy camp towards a cabin where there is a group of men waiting for them. Inside the cabin they find a young woman who is having contractions. They don’t know her since she has never been to the medical cabin during her pregnancy.

The girl turns out to be 16 years old and has been having contractions for five hours already. The baby is almost there already so the team has to act quickly while working with the girl and her friend’s limited English. It would’ve been so nice to be able to talk to this young girl in her native tongue, since the situation is stressful and scary. Unfortunately the delivery will have to happen without being able to include her, but still trying to respect her and the baby that’s coming.

On top of the language barrier there are no medical supplies to safely deliver the baby and so an ambulance has to be called in to arrive relatively quickly. The friend, doctor and nurses join the young girl in the ambulance. Will everything go well? Will the baby be born in the ambulance or will they be in the hospital on time? How will this 16 year old girl and her baby fare during the ride towards the hospital? The girl turns out to be so brave and strong!

On arrival at the hospital Greek nurses take over. Nobody is allowed to come inside with the Syrian girl, so nobody will be able to understand her and she doesn’t understand them. Without family or friends she gives birth to her son in a foreign country, surrounded by a Greek doctor and nurse.
The mother and son are healthy and are doing well. After a five day stay in the hospital they return to Camp Moria together.

Text: Anne Wostmann
Photo: Arie Kievit