Indian mother delivers baby on boat as her river island is inundated by floodwaters

A blue tarp covered a mother and her newborn daughter from the incessant rain on their boat journey

ByANUPAM NATH Associated Press
July 4, 2024, 7:27 AM

MORIGAON, India -- A blue tarp covered a mother and her newborn daughter from the incessant rain on their boat journey. Jahanara Khatoon, 25, had just given birth on the boat on their way to a healthcare center, surrounded by the raging floodwaters of the Brahmaputra River.

“I am very happy," said her husband, Kamaluddin, who was also on the boat. "My wife wanted a boy, but Allah has given me a girl and I’m very satisfied. I don’t want to have any more children.”

The couple had left their home on Phuliamari Char, one of the islands in the river, after it was inundated by floodwaters, taking shelter on a nearby island known as Chars.

Increased rainfall in the region blamed on climate change has made the Brahmaputra River — already known for its powerful, unpredictable flow — even more dangerous for those who live near it or on the more than 2,000 islands in it.

India, and Assam state in particular, is seen as one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate change because of increasingly intense rain and floods, according to a 2021 report by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a New Delhi-based climate think tank.

Khatoon and Kamaluddin earn their living as farmers on their island in Assam state’s Morigaon district.

A medical team was visiting flooded Chars to aid those who needed medical help, especially pregnant women. The team convinced Khatoon to travel with them to the nearest medical facility across the river.

The baby couldn’t wait for Khatoon to get to the healthcare center. As her labor progressed, the team on the boat quickly got to work, holding up a tarp to protect from the rain as they helped with the delivery.

Within 10 minutes the baby emerged to shouts of celebration.

Diluwara Begum, an auxiliary nurse and midwife, lifted the newborn and whispered prayers into her ears.

“This was my first time helping deliver a baby on a boat. It was a very different feeling. It feels good.” she said.

The family has named the baby Karima, which means “Giving.”

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