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Last November 5, the “Good News” section of Italian news outlet Corriere della Sera published an article about a nurse working in the midst of the war in Afghanistan. The article not only mentions the horrors that characterize the situation, but also tells about joyful moments of new life, which inspire hope.
A hundred births a day
In the Afghan city of Khost, there’s a maternal and pediatric hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, currently entrusted to Marina Castellano, a 58-year-old nurse from Turin, Italy. In late October, a terrible attack took place in that city, causing several deaths and dozens of injuries.
Every day, in the midst of the explosion of bombs and the staccato sound of the bullets, a hundred or so births take place. Together with death, there is life, evidenced by the cries and tears of these newborns and the joy of their parents.
Marina, present in that strife-ridden land, talks about the great emotion she feels at seeing each child be born in the midst of war. In this difficult setting, she continues working with effort and dedication.
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She explains that although the hospital is something of a refuge, the war still has a negative impact on women when it’s time to give birth:
“Often these women live in villages far from the city where there’s fighting, and at the time of birth they cannot access the necessary care, or they cannot get to the hospital in time because the road is not safe, or maybe they are hit during the journey from home to the hospital.”
In spite of all this, there are many families in Afghanistan who go ahead with having children because, as Marina explains to Corriere della Sera’s Jacopo Storni, “being a family in Afghanistan is very important,” a key part of their culture. The nurse explains that “above all it means being a real family, that is helping each other, supporting each other, staying together, sharing. The family is really at the center of life in Afghanistan.”
The birth of quadruplets
Among the many extraordinary moments Marina has witnessed in this hospital, there’s one indelibly marked on her memory: the birth of quadruplets. She was impressed by how the mother, who gave birth naturally to four babies each weighing more than a kilogram (2.2 lbs), was unperturbed by the situation.
Marina recalls “the serenity, the courage and the joy that could be read on the mother’s face.” She gave birth without asking for pain medication, and “smiled despite the great effort.” The nurse was impacted by the “beautiful and exciting image, which I think I will not forget, of the 4 children resting on her belly, and her hugging all 4 of them, crying, just as we nurses cried.”
Not all the stories the nurse tells have a happy ending. But in a year that has been difficult for many people—due not just to the pandemic or to politics, but also to armed conflicts like the one in Afghanistan, and countless other situations on a small or large scale—it’s encouraging to hear the story of this brave, hopeful, strong mother.
What kind of world awaits the children born in 2020? The future is in our hands. Let’s be like that mother, and endure the difficulties with serenity, hope and courage, knowing that together, we can overcome the challenges that face us.
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