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Premature twins recovering after being rescued from rubber dingy: 'They were so small and so cold'

“I was expecting normal newborns but they were much smaller…I was very surprised when I saw them.”

Image: MSF

“THEY WERE SO small in my hands and one of the boys was so cold.”

Antonia Zemp was the first person to come upon the five-day-old premature twin boys who were rescued from a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean sea this week.

The twins were delivered at just eight months old.

Zemp is a team leader with Médecins Sans Frontiéres, a medical humanitarian organisation that has rescued 11,365 people since it began operations on the Mediterranean sea in April. She told TheJournal.ie:

When I heard there were two babies on board that were only five days old I was expecting normal newborns, but they were much smaller…I was very surprised when I saw them.
Zemp said the babies were in wet towels when she found them, which she took them out of immediately. She then discovered that one of the babies was very ill:
When I touched him, his skin was way too cold, babies like this are not able to regulate their temperature. An hour later his temperature was still very low and very dangerous.
A helicopter came and picked up the babies and when the unwell boy stabilised, they were taken to hospital in Sicily. Zemp said:
He was so exhausted he could not suckle well, he would suckle for a minute and then fall asleep again.

Both boys are now doing well.

Dignity rescue operation 29 August Source: MSF

The pair were saved by a search and rescue vessel Dignity I, which is one of three vessels run by Médecins Sans Frontiéres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

Speaking on RTE Radio One Field Co-Ordinator with MSF Nicholas Papachrysostomou said:

This is a an inspiration for the team, this is what motivates the team of Dignity 1 to go on.

FieldCo Nicholas Source: Médecins Sans Frontiéres

When asked why this story stands out, he said, “We’re basically referring to a creature that has not even developed and he had gone through this ordeal before completing a week on this earth.

“I think it’s just extraordinary. The fact that we saved him was sheer luck, if we were a little late in rescuing or if we were out of means to evacuate, this boy would not be with us and his brother probably wouldn’t be either.”

Emotional 
Antonia has been working on Dignity 1 for the past two months and is staying for a further month. Describing how she felt when she found the twins, she said, “It’s very emotional when you see something like this”. However, she said she witnesses many emotional situations:
When women arrive and they know they are safe, often they just fall to the ground and are crying and praying. Also when you see marks from torture and hear about stories of sexual violence.
“You can see when they come on board, some of them can hardly move their legs because they have been sitting in a cramped space for so long.”

Dignity rescue operation, 29 August Source: Médecins Sans Frontiéres

Antonia added that she thinks of the people she has seen during the day when she’s going to sleep at night.

Director of Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) in Ireland Jane-Ann McKenna told TheJournal.ie about an MSF team that discovered twenty-two dead bodies on board an inflatable dinghy that began to take on water while rescuing people from a boat off the coast of Libya recently.

The bodies of twenty-one women, many of whom were young and clearly under the age of eighteen, and one man. The names of whom we’ll probably never know.

Death at sea

Last year MSF rescued over 20,129 people in the Mediterranean sea, about a quarter of them were women and children.

Field Co-Ordinator with MSF Nicholas Papachrysostomou said, “The numbers have not stopped and, in fact, now with the latest trends, the numbers will go up.

So what have we achieved this year by applying a policy of deterrence and dissertation, closing borders and constructing walls? Telling these people that they do not have the right to flee danger? Nothing.

“We haven’t succeeded in curtailing the numbers, migration is just as bad and it’s continuing to increase.”

Dignity rescue operation, 29 August Source: MSF

He called for Europe to reconsider its policy and provide safe and legal passages.

“Europe has a lot of tools on the table right now, it could provide ways for people to apply for asylum and come with student visas. They could be settled, they could be relocated so the south countries in Europe do not take all the burden.”

He added that so far in 2016, we’ve lost 3,167 people at sea in the Mediterranean.

The more we continue with this, the more people will go to the smuggling networks, the more this happens the more smugglers will take advantage of these people. The boats will be precarious, no fuel, no food, no water, death at sea.

“Europe has to take an active role in the search and rescue, now it’s the NGOs that are rescuing. Europe has to come and assume responsibility for this, we can not allow deaths to increase at sea.”

For more see msf.ie

Read: Newborn twins among 3,000 rescued from rubber boats at sea>

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