With additional reporting by Daniel Bosley
A woman has given birth on a boat traveling from Naifaru to Malé early this morning, after the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were unable to provide immediate emergency assistance.
The MNDF have confirmed that they were contacted by the boat at around 3am while it was located near Gaafaru, on the northern side on Malé atoll.
“Our vessel was engaged in another operation – we have five or six to handle every day,” explained Deputy Spokesman Captain Ali Ihusaan. “We attempted to guide the boat into Gaafaru but the captain said the channel was too narrow.”
The MNDF Coast Guard was unable to send assistance because it had only one vessel in Malé at the time – a fire launch normally reserved for fire-related incidents.
“The real delay was getting a doctor ready to go,” said Ihusaan. “If we go without professional medical care and the condition worsens, that’s a whole different situation.”
According to Vnews, both the mother and baby were weak when they reached Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and, while the mother is now in good health, the baby is said to be having breathing difficulties.
The woman was reportedly travelling to Malé after being advised to do so by doctors in Naifaru, Lhaviyani atoll, due to possible complications which may occur at birth.
The Ministry of Health’s 2014 health profile had noted that the recent strengthening of emergency obstetric care at the atoll level has included the upgrading of atoll level health centres to hospitals.
Maternal mortality rates in the Maldives were recorded at a record low of 13 per 100,000 live births in 2012 – ahead of both the Millenium Development Goals target of 125, and the Health Ministry’s own Health Master Plan which aimed to reduce the number to less than 50 by 2015.
Vnews reported that the husband contacted Minister of Defense and National Security Mohamed Nazim as well, to which he responded saying he was trying find a way to provide assistance.
“I told MNDF officials that if anything happens to the baby or mother they should take responsibility for that. But they spoke in a very rude manner saying ‘what taking of responsibility [are you talking about]’ and that there wouldn’t have been any problems if you left earlier,” Vnews quoted the husband as saying.
The MNDF spokesman told Minivan News that the service’s night staff are well trained and used to handling “emotional” callers, suggesting that the husband’s recollection of the conversation would have been affected by his “agitated” state.
After the mother’s condition started worsening, her husband called the Marine Police for assistance. They were on their way when she gave birth on the boat – reportedly assisted by her husband and two family members.
Marine police reached the boat near Kuda Bandos island, following which the mother and baby were transferred to the police speed boat.
After coming across the Coast Guard vessel – which had completed its previous operation – on their way to Malé, the physician and nurse with them came aboard the police boat and provided medical assistance until they reached the capital.