The birth of a baby to an Afghan refugee in a hotel room without a doctor present shows the “cold reality” of the delays faced by many families evacuated to the UK, aid organisations warn.
The healthy baby boy was born surrounded by hotel towels after being delivered by a volunteer who happened to be nearby.
But it raises questions about care for the 8,000 Afghan evacuees pulled out during the Kabul airlift this summer, many of whom are living in hotels across the country.
Volunteer groups have sprung up in the weeks since the huge evacuation effort, providing food and clothing to refugees while they wait for the system to find them a home.
But Melanie Clark, an RAF veteran who works as a nurse, got more than she bargained for when she arrived at a London hotel intending to hand out supplies and ended up delivering a baby.
She had been setting up a donations stall with fellow veteran Matt Simmons as part of Ems4Afghans, a community organisation from Emsworth in Hampshire.
Ms Clark told the PA news agency: “Matt handed me a phone and basically said this man’s wife is pregnant – she’s in pain.
“We went up to the room, I thought I would be maybe reassuring someone and making sure an ambulance was on its way.”
Neither the woman nor her husband spoke much English, but a fellow volunteer with Ms Clark was able to translate.
Questions and answers had to be relayed from the ambulance control room to Ms Clark and her colleague and then translated for the husband and wife, and back again.
At some point, Ms Clark said, it became clear that paramedics would not arrive in time and that she would be delivering the baby – for the first time in her life.
Ms Clark, who works at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, West Sussex, told PA: “I am a nurse but midwifery didn’t come in our nurse training.
“Before the baby arrived, before its head came out, it was scary.
“It was scary and nerve-wracking about whether this was going to turn out OK.”
Without knowing the mother’s medical history, Ms Clark was conscious that there could be issues she was not aware of.
The baby boy – the mother’s sixth child – was born safely and swiftly.
But Ms Clark, who served in Iraq with the RAF, says it raises questions about the level of medical care available for refugees in the UK.
“They are registered with a GP but the level of support they have had and the knowledge of their pregnancies is very, very limited.
“I just thought, I am sure it will happen again.”
She added that more needs to be done to help those evacuated from Afghanistan.
“We can’t just stand by… just bringing them into this country is not enough because they are traumatised and they need some kind of future… they need to know what’s happening next.
“I went to Iraq. I have seen the difficulties people face and the effects of war on people.”
Almost three months on from the airlift, the Home Office has said the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) is “not yet open” and that more information will be provided in due course.
Louise Calvey, head of services and safeguarding at the charity Refugee Action, said people brought to the UK during the Kabul airlift were “living in limbo”.
She added: “We’d like to offer our congratulations to the family. We hope they can build safe and happy lives in the UK.
“But it’s appalling that three months after the evacuation of Kabul thousands of Afghan refugees are still living in limbo in hotels with no settled access to employment, healthcare or education.
“Rather than the warm welcome people were promised, they’re seeing the cold reality of our refugee protection system.
“Ministers must move quicker to get people out of hotels and integrated into our communities, where they can start to properly rebuild their lives.”