The crew of the Italian navy frigate, named Euro, were forced into action minutes after dragging the heavily-pregnant mother on board as they rescued an overcrowded dinghy that had run into trouble in rough seas.
Despite a lack of sterile hospital conditions, the on-board doctor, with the help of crew members, successfully delivered the baby girl before returning to harbour, where they were greeted with rapturous applause from well-wishers who had gathered to welcome the new arrival.
Both mother and daughter – who was named Yambambi Yete – were reported to be doing fine after being taken to hospital in Reggio Calabria for check-ups.
She was among 600 would-be immigrants rescued from the Mediterranean sea this weekend – a consignment of human misery that included 24 minors and one paraplegic woman.
It was a welcome piece of good news for Italy’s border control, whose personnel too often face pulling the dead and dying from the Mediterranean sea as more and more refugees attempt to make the perilous crossing from north Africa each year.
Technically the new arrival was born on Italian sovereign territory, which may increase the family’s chances of being allowed to stay in Europe.
‘At 15.23 on Saturday, we had the pride, happiness and joy to witness the birth of little Yambambi Yete, a Gambian national,’ said the ship’s captain, Cristian Nardone. ‘It was a natural birth overseen by our on-board medical officer, Dr Cesca, and Warrant Nurse Moscato. For them, it was their first experience of this kind, not only aboard a ship.’