— UNICEF Italia (@UNICEF_Italia) May 4, 2015
In just three days, nearly 7,000 migrants have been rescued from dangerously crowded boats trying to get across the Mediterranean into Europe, officials estimate. One of the rescued: a pregnant Nigerian woman who was in labor when rescuers came to her boat Sunday night.
The woman gave birth to a baby girl aboard an Italian Navy ship.
The baby was named Francesca Marina — Marina for the Italian Marina Militare, and Francesca for Pope Francis and Saint Francis of Assisi, according to Italian news service ANSA. The captain of the ship, Vincenzo Pascale, told ANSA that the mother was in labor for six hours and that her birth was assisted by a midwife on the naval vessel.
She is also a “royal baby,” UNICEF’s tweet says, in reference to the birth of Britain’s new princess, Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.
According to Reuters, the Italian Navy said that both mother and daughter are “in good health.” The two were later taken to an Italian hospital.
Francesca Marina was the sixth baby to be born on a navy ship since 2013, according to the Guardian.
Carlotta Sami, a U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokeswoman, spoke to the newspaper about why expectant mothers would make such a journey, despite the danger:
“There are different reasons why the women are pregnant. There are families of refugees, women who started their trip months before and suffer abuse during their trip. Pregnancy could be the result of abuse,” she said. “They decide to take the trip because they cannot go back, they do not have other options.”
Francesca’s mother was taken onto a Navy ship during a massive rescue operation in the Mediterranean, during a year of staggering migrant deaths. As many as 850 migrants died last month on a boat that capsized off the Libyan coast. The tragedy drew international attention to the crisis and the dangerous journey migrants take to reach Europe from Africa. According to the BBC, there have been 1,750 confirmed migrant deaths in the Mediterranean this year so far.
Driven largely by poverty, instability and persecution, the European migration crisis has overwhelmed Europe, as The Washington Post has reported. And although the rescue operations of the past few days have potentially saved thousands, reminders of just how deadly the crossing can be remain. On Tuesday, Save the Children announced that dozens of migrants are feared dead after falling from a rubber boat into the sea as rescue ships approached.
Although the exact number of dead is not yet known, survivors told rescuers that many who fell were unable to swim.
Read more on the migrant crisis: