By Gennike Mayers, IFRC

“Nothing is more joyful than hearing a baby cry in the maternity ward.  It means the baby is alive and well!” says smiling Australian midwife Janet Gorrell, as she emerges from the maternity ward with a new-born baby girl to get some fresh air. Janet, who works with the New Zealand Red Cross, has been working at the Red Cross Red Crescent Emergency Field Hospital in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh for one month.

Indeed, crying and screaming is music to the ears of the midwives who sometimes have the terribly tragic task of announcing to a mother that her baby could not be saved. In an emergency hospital which receives the most complicated cases, often referred by other hospitals, not all pregnancies end with tears of joy.

“This mother was referred to us from another hospital. She had been in labour for five hours, but the baby just wasn’t coming. Then they sent her here. We tried to get her to push but nothing was happening,” says Janet.

Susmita Dhar, female interpreter (dressed in yellow in the picture) who was on duty at the maternity ward that day, recalls, “Eventually the doctors had to do a vacuum delivery as the baby was in a breach position. With the vacuum the baby’s head turned around and finally came out normally but there was no sound. I thought the baby was dead. They gave the baby oxygen and after five long minutes she started crying. I was so happy to hear her cry!”

No doubt, those five minutes felt like eternity for everyone including the tired mother, Sanjida, who spent three days at the field hospital before being discharged. She asked the midwives to name her daughter and so the miracle baby girl got the name ‘Yasmin’, which in Bengali means Jasmine flower.

In the case of complicated deliveries, the priority is to save the mother, but in the process sometimes babies pass away shortly after birth. Thankfully this unusual delivery had a happy ending.

On October 16, 2017, the emergency field hospital officially opened in Kutupalong near the main road within the camp district, so patients could easily access medical care.  A peculiarity of the site is that it is an active rubber farm, so due to the commercial value of the trees, not one could be cut down in the process of setting up the hospital. And so, the mass of white tents housing top-of-the-line equipment and beds for 60 patients was set up in between the rubber trees known fondly as the ‘rubber garden’.

To serve the community round the clock, just about 150 local and international staff live on the same site as the hospital. The hospital tents and equipment were deployed by the Finnish and Norwegian Red Cross Emergency Response Units (ERUs) while the Danish Red Cross took charge of the living facilities known as “the basecamp”. The ERU is part of the IFRC global emergency response tools deployed when and where needed. Red Cross and Red Crescent staff around the globe are specially trained for these types of intense emergency deployments and minimalistic living arrangements, but it is still tough to adapt.

Since the hospital opened in October 2017, a total of 43, 780 patients have been treated, 2,211 surgeries were performed, and 511 babies were born.