Coronavirus: Support floods in for couple in Dubai who became parents to quadruplets during pandemic

Tijani Abdulkareem, 32, and his wife Suliyat, 29, had planned to return home to Nigeria but she went into labour

Four Nigerian babies born month prematurely in Dubai are recovering at Latifah Women and Children’s Hospital in Dubai. Courtesy: Abdulkareem family 
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Members of Dubai's Nigerian community have rallied around a couple who became parents to quadruplets born more than a month early.

Tijani Abdulkareem, 32, and his wife Suliyat, 29, planned to return home to Oyo, north of Lagos, in March, to bring up their burgeoning family but travel restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic meant they were unable to leave the UAE.

The couple hoped to fly back to Nigeria as soon as possible, so Mrs Abdulkareem left her hospital cleaning job in June, leaving her without health insurance.

But the little bundles of joy made their way into the world early on July 1.

As husband Tijani, a chef in Al Quoz, is a low-earner, his insurance did not cover dependents, leaving the family with a medical bill which could top Dh800,000 after the surprise early births.

It was a big surprise to find out we were to have four babies, but a good one

“My wife is fine but the babies are still in hospital,” said Mr Abdulkareem.

“It was a big surprise to find out we were to have four babies, but a good one.

“No-one can help us in Dubai and both my parents are old so we must go home.

“I have a sister there who can help us so we will try to go back to Nigeria as soon as possible.”

The proud dad continues to work 14 hours a day, although his salary has been cut in the post-pandemic pay revision.

He splits his time between work and hospital, where his two new daughters, Maricel and Michelle, and their brothers Alex and Pride, are under observation.

Suliyat and husband Tijani want to travel home once they have cleared their hospital bills. Courtesy: Abdulkareem family

The four babies arrived prematurely on July 1 at Latifa Women and Children Hospital in Dubai.

When Hakeem Anifowoshe, a Nigerian logistics worker in Dubai, learnt of the family’s plight, he rallied around the community to help.

“I went with some friends to visit them in hospital to see how we could support them in any way,” he said.

“We thought they just needed clothes and other simple things but discovered it was way more complicated than that.

Well-wishers from the Nigerian community and other UAE residents have so far donated about Dh42,000 directly to the hospital to pay for the family’s care.

“The hospital has been very supportive so far in their capacity, but we know their hands are tied,” Mr Anifowoshe said.

coronavirus pandemic 

“There is a welfare department there who have been helpful but there is only so much they can do.”

While Mrs Abdulkareem’s bill was Dh58,000 for a cesarian section delivery and post-delivery care, the children required round-the-clock monitoring in a special baby care unit for premature infants.

They will only be discharged once they have reached a healthy weight and are considered fit to go home. That is unlikely for another five weeks.

The support group led by Mr Anifowoshe, a Dubai resident of 13 years, have hired an apartment for the couple and their newborns in Sports City for the next two months at a cost of about Dh1,800 a month.

“For the mother to heal properly she must have access to her own bathroom and that was not possible under their previous accommodation that was a shared room,” Mr Anifowoshe said.

“We are not a charity so we have to get people to donate directly to the hospital.

“Even if the babies get discharged within a month, it Is likely to be another month for them to gain enough strength to safely fly home to Nigeria, and of course that is assuming the borders will have reopened by then."

Mr Anifowoshe hopes their gesture will help turnaround the image of Nigeria, which has taken a beating following the recent arrest of cybercrime fraudster Hushpuppi.

“Nigeria’s reputation has taken a bashing in the news recently so we wanted to show not all people are like this," she said.

“We wanted to change the narrative and the perception towards Nigerians – we are not all bad people.”