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Friday, June 12, 2009

A Family Tragedy

Reesalat gave birth to her fifth child as she and her extended family fled from the troubled Swat region in North West Pakistan, but died 12 days later. She was just 28 years old.

Her younger sister Shahnaz explained what happened:

"It was chaos in our village, and I saw many people killed and others who were severely injured as they tried to run away. This experience left us all traumatized but unfortunately this trauma has been surpassed by our own misery.

There was no transportation available in our village so we had to leave on foot. We walked for one day and one night across the mountains. During this time my sister, Reesalat went into labor. We were far away from any health facilities and so we had to take her to a stranger’s house, where she gave birth to a baby girl, Laila. She is so beautiful, just like her mother...

Not long after she had given birth we had to start moving again. She was in a lot of pain and walking in the mountainous terrain was almost impossible for her.

Thankfully, we finally came to a road where we managed to find a truck to bring us all here, to Char Gulli. Initially we were living with a relative but the conditions were not good, so another family member from this area made this house available for us.

Reesalat was living here with Laila and her other four children. She was in a lot of pain and was bleeding heavily but there is no female doctor in this area and all she could do was get a little medicine from the local pharmacy. But this didn’t work and her condition continued to deteriorate; 12 days after giving birth she passed away.

Before the conflict came to our village and we had to flee, Reesalat had no health problems and her pregnancy was going well. We truly believe that the stress and trauma caused by the violence and the difficult journey we had to make after fleeing our village, lead to her death.”

It has been 25 days since Reesalat died and baby Laila and her other four children are now living with their uncle in a makeshift camp at a local school in Char Gulli. They are staying with 12 other family members in a dirty classroom which bare floors, broken windows and no furniture. The only possessions they have are a few blankets and cooking pots, but nothing else.

Conditions in the school are very poor and deteriorating by the day. There is very little access to clean water and many children are suffering from diarrhea, skin infections and respiratory problems.

Laila is underweight and has scabies but is receiving medical care from Islamic Relief’s health team based at the Basic Health Unit (BHU) in Char Gulli. Islamic Relief is installing water and sanitation facilities at the school, to try and prevent the spread of disease amongst the IDPs living there.

Laila’s 13-year-old sister Shah Begum has taken charge of caring for her baby sister since her mother’s death. But she is upset and traumatized by the death of her mother and is struggling to cope.

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