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Baby showers for displaced Libyan families

Libya, April 7, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Fatimah Mahfouth was forced to flee an attack on her hometown of Ajdabiya, Libya and delivered a healthy baby boy in a displacement camp. Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
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  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps
  • 
  <span class="field-credit">
    Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Cassandra Nelson/Mercy Corps

Despite all the fighting and uncertainty in Libya, some things in Libya are continuing as scheduled. The schools may be closed and the banks all shut, but babies are still being born to very proud and anxious parents.

Fatimah Mahfouth was due to deliver her fourth child when Gaddafi forces violently took over her town of Ajdabiya. She fled her home with her husband and three children and went to Albehthan, a small, desert village about 40 kilometers away. They could only take a few things as they had to leave very quickly to escape the shelling on their town.

“I started having labor pains while we were on the road to Albethan,” said Fatimah. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh no, please not now.’ But there was nothing I could do to stop it.”

They reached Albethan, and women in the village quickly set to work to help Fatimah. A family took Fatimah and here children into their home as guests so they would have shelter and some privacy. A few hours later, Fatimah delivered a healthy baby boy.

“I am glad it was my fourth child and not my first,” said Fatimah. “There wasn’t a doctor or nurse to help me, but I was able to do it alone.”

Fatimah and her family stayed in the village for a week while she recovered, and then moved on to Benghazi, a city that was farther away from the fighting and offering more services than the little village of Albethan.

They moved into a camp set up for displaced people. The former “tourist village” was a beachside attraction for visitors to the area. Displaced families have been taking shelter in the buildings there and local organizations have been providing the people food and other basics to help them get by.

In this camp for the displaced, three new babies have been delivered since the uprising began. To welcome them into the community, people in Benghazi organized a traditional Libyan baby shower for the three mothers. There was singing, games for the children and special traditional foods and sweets, as well as a barbecue. The community gave the displaced mothers diapers, baby clothes and other items they needed, as well as money to help them.

“The welcome and support we have received since we had to flee our home has been tremendous,” said Fatimah. “It is our culture to always help anyone in need so I am used to this sort of generosity, but now I understand how important this is. Without the support and kindness of strangers we would have been lost. I can’t imagine what we would have done.”

Fatimah and her new family hope to return to their home in Ajdabiya soon, but for now they are happy to be safe and secure in the displaced camp in Benghazi.