Mediterranean: “A very normal birth in dangerously abnormal conditions”

On 12 September, a healthy baby boy was born on board MV Aquarius, a search and rescue vessel run in partnership between MSF and SOS Méditerranée. He was born in international waters to Nigerian parents, who named their baby Newman Otas.

The baby’s parents, Otas and Faith, and two older brothers, Victory (seven years old) and Rollres (five years old), were rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat 24 hours earlier. Currently, 392 people are on board MV Aquarius after two rubber boats were rescued and one transfer was accepted. 155 people on board are under 18 years of age, 141 of them traveling alone without a parent or guardian accompanying them. There are 11 children under five years of age and now four babies younger that one year.

“I was very stressed on the rubber boat, sitting on the floor of the boat with the other women and children,” the baby’s mother Faith recounts. “Panicking that I would go into labor, I could feel my baby moving; he would move down and then move back up again. I had been having contractions for three days.”

MSF midwife, Jonquil Nicholl, delivered the baby: “A very normal birth in dangerously abnormal conditions. I am filled with horror at the thought of what would have happened if this baby had arrived 24 hours earlier – in that unseaworthy rubber boat, with fuel on the bottom where the women sit, crammed in with no space to move, at the mercy of the sea. And 48 hours previously they were waiting on a beach in Libya not knowing what was ahead of them. How can this still this still happen in 2016? That families, vulnerable people, pregnant women, tiny babies and unborn babies are forced to risk their lives in the Mediterranean Sea when they should be receiving assistance and protection.”

Since the beginning of the operations on 21 April 2016, MSF teams onboard the Dignity I, Bourbon Argos and Aquarius (in partnership with SOS Méditerranée) have rescued 12,003 people during 89 different rescue operations.