CATANIA - Sicily: The midwife aboard an NGO rescue ship currently operating in the Mediterranean has revealed the incredible story of the rescue of a woman holding her new-born baby in her arms, still attached by the umbilical cord.
The tiny infant, dubbed Christ by his mother, had a terrifying start to life but is now doing well after the dramatic rescue.
Alice Gautreau, works for SOS Méditerranée on the Aquarius, a vessel that set out from a Sicilian port Sunday morning to aid those making the perilous journey from Libya to Europe.
Speaking to HuffPost UK from the ship, Gautreau described the horrors faced by women travelling through the war-torn country.
She said: “I see a lot of cases rape, cases of forced marriage back home, those girls are fleeing some terrible situations back home.
“In Libya [women are] bought for working in a house then get raped by the owner. Girls sometimes have to have sex with men just to get food.”
Often the only means of escape for these women is to get in an over-packed and dangerously rickety, inflatable dinghy, completely at the mercy of smugglers who view them not as people but as commodities to be bought and sold.
But amongst the horrifying accounts of abuse one incident, which happened just three weeks ago, stands out to Gautreau that has a - relatively - happy ending.
She said: “We were approaching a wooden boat and we always have a medical doc on board the rib on the rescue team, his job is on the first approach to assess quickly if there’s any massive medical need on board and tell me how many women and children are on board.
“This time he told me: ‘OK, I have four women and a baby here - oh, hang on, four women and a baby attached to the mum.’
“I said: ‘Attached?! What do you you mean?’ And he said: ’Attached, to the umbilical cord!′”
Gautreau rushed to get her medical kit as the woman, just 22-years-old, was helped on board.
“She was holding her baby in her arms with the cord attached, the placenta was still inside,” she said.
“I took her calmly into the clinic - she looked so composed, it was completely surreal.
“We took her in, I cut the cord and we delivered the placenta and did the first care for the baby - everything was fine.
“Mum was surprisingly fine as well - she needed a few stitches. She then settled into one of our hospital beds and she rested for the rest of the night.”
Whilst the tale of that night seems positive, the backstory is anything but.
Gautreau said: “She gave birth in front of 100 other men. Her husband is still being detained in Libya, so she was not travelling with him.
“She knew no one on that boat and she gave birth completely on her own with no help at all
“She was 22 and it was her first baby. She was called Constance, she was very nice. The baby was called Christ and they were from Cameroon.”
Tragically, stories such as this are happening every day in Libya and in boats just off the coast of the country.
Gautreau added: “I know what happened to her because one of the journalists on board kept in touch. She was taken to convent in Brindisi [Southern Italy] and she seemed super-happy there so I’m glad she went there.
“We got pictures of her and baby Christ and they looked really happy and healthy.”