Roma Hattu, a pregnant Rohingya Muslim woman displaced by violence in Myanmar, grimaces while experiencing labour pains on the floor of a former rubber factory now serving as her family's shelter.
“On the bare concrete floor of an abandoned factory, Roma Hattu was feeding her two children a simple meal of rice with nothing. The ‘dirty as hell’ factory, with its black walls and broken windows made beautiful light and that was the first thing I noticed. I peeked from behind a flimsy, tattered yellow rice sack used as a curtain for her private space and had a quick moment of eye contact with the woman. I showed my camera, she nodded her head ‘yes,’ so I came in to take pictures.
The 30-year-old is a stateless Muslim Rohingya displaced by violence between Buddhists and Muslims and is spending her time with thousands of others in a strip of basic camps just outside Sittwe, in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Being Rohingya today is like being a Bosnian in the nineties, but a thousand times worse – killed and expelled for ethnicity and religion, cornered, besieged, powerless, hungry… It is the ugly and important part of a huge story I cover – changes in a country that is waking up from decades of isolation.
What I didn’t see at first was how seriously the woman was pregnant. I asked a few questions through my assistant and she told me it was her ninth month and the baby could come out at any time. Roma’s husband was out looking for something to eat – they had no money for food or to pay a doctor. She would deliver her baby here, on the concrete floor of an abandoned rubber factory.
I left the shelter to find my colleagues from the Reuters team travelling with me and when we came back the woman was rolling around on the floor breathing heavily and moaning, obviously in great pain. Her husband was back and we realised how desperate the situation was. I took a few more pictures but then it was time to put the cameras down and help the helpless.”
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III, lens 24mm, f2.2, 1/100, ISO 400