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ROME — With the help of the Italian navy, a woman fleeing Libya for Europe by boat gave birth to her baby daughter on the Mediterranean Sea over the weekend.
The young Nigerian woman was already in labor Sunday when Italian naval officers rescued her from an overcrowded rubber raft on the Mediterranean Sea, according to the Associated Press. The woman was forced onto the sea along with nearly 7,000 other migrants by smuggling rings, the AP reported.
Doctors with the Italian navy assisted in the delivery on one of the navy’s patrol boats and then wrapped the little girl in a hazmat suit. A photo taken just after the birth was tweeted by the navy and quickly went viral, according to The Daily Beast.
The patrol boat — which carried an additional 654 rescued migrants — docked in Sicily, where the mother and child were examined at an area hospital, Reuters reported. The navy said they were in good health and will soon be transferred to an immigrant camp.
The mother named her now-famous daughter Francesca Marina in honor of the circumstances surrounding her birth — Marina means navy in Italian, according to Reuters.
These are families of refugees, women who started their trip months before and suffer abuse during their trip … They decide to take the trip because they cannot go back, they do not have other options.
–Carlotta Sami, U.N. refugee agency
Francesca Marina is just one of thousands of babies and children to make (and survive) the treacherous crossing in 2015, according to Italy’s Save the Children. She’s also the sixth baby to be born on a navy vessel since 2013, the Guardian reported.
“There are different reasons why the women are pregnant,” Carlotta Sami, a spokeswoman for the U.N.’s refugee agency, told the Guardian. “These are families of refugees, women who started their trip months before and suffer abuse during their trip … They decide to take the trip because they cannot go back, they do not have other options.”
Save the Children International predicts 2,500 children could be killed in the Mediterranean this year if rescue operations fail to continue.
“We cannot allow 2015 to be the deadliest year in the Mediterranean yet,” said Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children International, in an April release. “Even one boat that sinks is one too many, but the escalating number of people dying off Italy’s shores brings home the urgent need to act.”
While 6,771 people were pulled from the sea over the weekend, at least 11 died, the AP reported.