Letter: Help for Bosnia's new-born babies

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The Independent Online
Sir: In response to Sheila Kitzinger (letter, 18 December), the World Health Organisation's initiative of keeping mothers and babies together day and night is known in Bosnia. It was widely practised before the war, especially in the countryside. It has always been a part of local tradition.

The new-born babies pictured in Sarajevo hospital being kept warm by hot-water bottles (17 December) are not separated from their mothers due to outdated rules, but because most mothers are unable to be with them. They are dead or fighting for their lives.

Mortality in delivery has soared during this war and is greater than in most parts of the world. Malnourished, stressed and seriously ill women are delivering prematurely, with difficulty, and many die as a result.

Only a few very lucky ones can deliver under medical supervision at all. Heavy shelling and battle lines prevent women receiving medical help. Most are giving birth under conditions not seen in the Third World today.

Mothers who survive birth are often unable to breast feed due to anaemia, stress and general weakness. The hospital is the only place in Sarajevo that still has supplies of baby food. Many babies are brought to Sarajevo main hospital without name or identification.

For those you pictured, and many others, a hot-water bottle and the extraordinary efforts of the medical staff on the maternity ward is, for the time being, the only warmth they can get in their precarious lives.

Yours sincerely,

INDIJANA HARPER

Cambridge

18 December

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