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4 Hours of Life: Tragedy of Baby Born in Myanmar Camp

Hours after Shamshu Nahad gave birth to her second child, a beautiful baby girl, her husband was digging the baby's grave.

. 20-year-old Shamshu Nahad was fanned by a relative as she awaited the birth of her second child in Dar Paing, a camp for Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state, Myanmar. With almost no access to life-saving medical care, her husband, Mohammed Shafiq, 25, watched anxiously from the doorway of their makeshift home. His wife spent four days in complete agony, buckled over in pain and drenched in sweat, before the baby finally arrived. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

. Just four hours after she came into the world, Nahad's daughter was dead.

A midwife had come, one of just three who serve more than 10,000 Rohingya in Dar Paing camp and surrounding areas. When complications in childbirth occur, patients cannot go to government hospitals without hard-to-get authorization and hefty bribes. The young family was already deep in debt and could not afford to bribe anyone. And during her pregnancy, Nahad could not afford to eat anything except small amounts of vegetables and rice. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

. Nahad's mother Hasina reached down to hold her granddaughter's tiny corpse. The family is among 140,000 Rohingya Muslims living in camps outside of Sittwe after rampaging Buddhist mobs chased them from their homes in 2012. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

. Nahad was grief-stricken. She broke down in tears with every sideways glance at the small corpse on the other side of the hut.

Her only other child, 2-year-old Mohammed Rohim, could not understand why he wasn't allowed to go to his mother, who could barely move because the bleeding wouldn't stop. He looked curiously at the baby, unaware it was his little sister. Finally he was shuttled from the room and placed under the care of neighbors. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

. When the sun came up, the midwife returned to help prepare the burial. The warm water poured over the little girl's body drained through the slats of the shack's bamboo floor. It was sprinkled with perfume and bundled up in white cloth, as is the Islamic tradition.

Nahad could hardly move, but she said that pain was nothing compared to her grief. Others took her dead daughter to the mosque, walking along the muddy road between long, bamboo camp homes, sidestepping huge puddles left by monsoon rains. Some neighbors joined the procession, while others peeked out from the windows. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

. When they reached the cemetery, Shafiq, the baby's father, dug into the wet earth with his spade as his brother held the body. Other men took over from time to time until the hole was about 1 foot wide, 3 feet long and 3 feet deep. Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP

. The tiny corpse, wrapped in white cloth, was placed on a straw mat and lowered into the moist earth, neighbors and relatives bowing their heads as they quietly recited Muslim prayers. Like the child's life, the ceremony was brief, lasting only 10 minutes.

— The Associated Press

Gemunu Amarasinghe / AP