Afghan Woman Gives Birth on US Military Evacuation Plane

It’s unclear what the baby’s citizenship will be.
August 23, 2021, 8:37am
c-17
The Air Force C-17 plane was flying from an Intermediate Staging Base in the Middle East when the woman went into labor and "began having complications." Photo by Airman 1st Class Kylie Barrow, via U.S. Air Force / AP

An Afghan woman who went into labour midway through a U.S. evacuation flight was forced to give birth inside the aircraft’s cargo bay shortly after it landed in Germany on Saturday.

The Air Force C-17 plane was on the second stage of an evacuation flight out of Afghanistan, flying from an Intermediate Staging Base in the Middle East, when the mother went into labor and “began having complications,” U.S. Air Mobility Command said on Twitter. The aircraft commander descended in altitude so as to increase the air pressure inside the cabin – a move that “helped stabilise and save the mother’s life,” according to the tweet thread.

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Shortly after the plane touched down at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base, a number of airmen came aboard and delivered the baby girl in the cargo bay.

The child’s citizenship status remains unclear. Twitter users speculated that despite being born at a U.S. air base on German soil, the young girl would receive neither U.S. nor German citizenship. VICE World News could not confirm whether this was the case.

Following the birth, the newborn and her mother were transported to a nearby medical facility and were in “good condition,” the tweets said. Embedded photos showed the mother lying on a stretcher and being carried off the plane by soldiers. She was one of about 1,150 people who landed at the Ramstein base on Saturday. Reuters reported that the evacuees are expected to depart for the United States within days.

News of the pregnant woman’s safe departure comes just days after footage emerged of an Afghan civilian desperately passing a baby over razor wire to a U.S. soldier. The video, taken on the outskirts of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, shows the soldier standing on a perimeter wall, clutching the child by the arm and hoisting it over the wire. Earlier, VICE World News was told that after handing the baby over to U.S. troops the father ran back to help the baby’s mother, who had been injured by the crowd. The U.S. military has since announced that the baby was reunited with the father.

“The baby seen in the video was taken to a medical treatment facility on site and cared for by medical professionals,” Major James Stenger, a spokesman for the Marines, told The New York Times. “I can confirm the baby was reunited with their father and is safe at the airport.”

Major Stenger did not say how many children had been taken to similar treatment facilities in recent days, but The New York Times reported that multiple Afghan children have been placed into the care of Western troops in last-ditch attempts to get them to freedom. Video footage from earlier last week showed children being lifted over crowds in order to reach British soldiers, and a senior British officer told Sky News that some mothers had even resorted to throwing their children, including babies, over razor wire.

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The UK government has said it will not accept unaccompanied minors. It is unclear what the U.S. stance is, but Afghan-American organisers have been asking families to register themselves as foster parents so they can accept incoming children from Afghanistan.

Last week, in a statement from Janti Soeripto, President and CEO of  Save the Children, the non-governmental organisation urged countries to step up efforts to help Afghans, especially children, at risk.

“At the same time as reports emerge of some mothers handing their children over the gates at Kabul airport to military personnel, asking them to take their children to safety, countries are closing their borders, and thousands of visa applications need urgent processing,” she said. 

“It is essential that in the early days of this crisis, countries keep their borders open and ensure that those arriving in their country, including children who have fled from violence, are safe and their rights are protected. Furthermore, countries should continue to accept Afghan children and their families based on the humanitarian need – not arbitrary caps.”

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