Toni Stokes never knows how many women in labour will arrive each day. Sometimes none, other times three or four pregnant women are rushed to the Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency hospital in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
“In the morning, we see maybe three emergencies,” says Toni, an Australian nurse midwife. “Yesterday, we had four happening at once, and then there’s nothing.”
One thing’s certain: “We are definitely saving lives here every day.”
It is the only 24-hour surgical facility supporting a population of more than one million people from Rakhine, Myanmar, and the host community. On 16 April 2018, it will be six months since the Red Cross and Red Crescent emergency hospital opened. In that time, it has treated 22,650 people and given 16,931 psychological first-aid.
The maternity ward is especially busy because babies are born any time of day or night.
“It might not be a mother who’s even delivering at that time – it might be that she has delivered in the camp, and we have seen quite a lot of women whose placentas were stuck, and that means they’re bleeding,” says Toni.
An on-site blood bank as well as surgery and maternity units located close together helps save mothers lives. And saving a mother’s life is critical for people living in camps. If a mother dies, then her children are even more vulnerable.
“Her life is valuable, not just as a woman but as a woman who has responsibilities caring for, nurturing those children,” says Toni. “It’s very, very satisfying to be saving lives like that.”
The toughest cases, such as when there’s a death, are hard for families and hospital staff. To help, an on-site psycho-social support unit provides emotional first-aid to anyone in need.