Premature birth is naturally on the rise in Syria and the surrounding regions. Mothers are put under extreme stress due to the war & trauma they endure, it is also known that pregnant mothers are being targeted for fun by snipers.
Medical care in Syria is a difficulty to find as it is, when you need care for a premature baby or child in need who requires special care it is virtually the impossible.
A lot of babies are born with birth defects due to the lack of care and lack of nutrition available through pregnancy & after birth support.
I have met with several pregnant mothers to be in Syria and the surrounding regions who have had problems through their pregnancy, and many who have endured early labour due to injuries sustained, severe stress & lack of care through their pregnancy.
Many mothers have had to move place to place within Syria for safety through their pregnancy once their area has fallen to the hands of the war.
One lady I met with was 26 years old; she had been pregnant with her first child. Her husband and her wished to have their baby in Syria, their home country, and were planning to move to Lebanon after the birth when the child was in a stable position to be moved out of the country. They prayed for safety daily for their child to have a good future, they had been blessed for months without the war coming close to them. They both knew it was not an ideal time to have a baby, but after years of marriage & trying for a child for those years; they were blessed with a pregnancy.
There was an attack on their village and the mother was badly injured, causing injury to her baby while in her 3rd trimester. She was rushed to the nearest place that was a make shift hospital. They had to operate and perform an emergency caesarean section to try to save her baby. Sadly the baby had passed away from injuries sustained which were clearly visible on her baby girl’s body. The mother survived and is still recovering from injuries; however, she now has to recover from the loss of her baby and her husband who passed away on that same day she lost her baby. Her husband had tried to protect her as their building crumbled upon them. Nobody in her family had been linked to either side of the war and no members of her family were fighting in rebel groups, or the Syrian Army. They were civilians trying to live their life.
This story is not uncommon now in Syria. The immensity of the tragedy the people of Syria are facing is an overwhelming despair. There has been a long list of mothers I have met with; stories unbearable to hear, and many who lost their baby because they went into early labour and the care was not available to them for their baby to survive. These mothers are then carrying a heavy weight of guilt within and they too are not getting the assistance they need to deal with the trauma of losing their child.
For the Syrian mothers who have managed to flee to country to seek safety in a neighbouring country, the tragedy continues as they try to seek care for their babies, or through their pregnancy.
In the largest camp for Syrian refugees based in Jordan; Zaatari has a plethora of Syrian mothers complaining that they can only get baby milk up to 7 months old in the camp, the doctors tell them to feed their babies on rice thereafter they share with me. In Syria, mothers would feed their babies up to 2 years old on baby milk for a healthy life. These mothers cannot afford to buy the baby milk for their children even though it is widely available for sale on Market Street or Champs-Élysées as it is known.
I first met the father of this baby in March 2013 working in his store in Market Street in Zaatari. On a recent visit back there I asked for his baby girl and wife, he shared his baby girl had to go back to Syria recently to get medical treatment as she was very sick. Naturally it was a shock what I was hearing, ‘You would send your baby to Syria for medical treatment?’ I questioned. He explained he tried to get medical help in the camp but couldn’t, outside of the camp was too expensive and they could not afford the doctors, so with that his wife and baby went back to Syria to try to get medical treatment, he had to stay to work in their store as they need the money like every other Syrian now. He was deeply worried about them but said what could he do, nobody could treat his daughter in Jordan.
It is just one story of not only the people of Syria struggling so much outside of the country, but also shows just what it is like living in a country foreign to theirs and foreign to what they know. While most people across the west think the Middle East is just one large area that is the same; each country is completely different. Syrians are indeed in a foreign country whether it is Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan or Egypt and the struggle continues for them no matter where they go.
Prematurity is being targeted in a small way by some organisations. It needs a lot more attention as it is on the rise and it will be a long term issue in the country and surrounding.
Dealing with a preterm birth is one of the toughest struggles a mother can face, especially when the baby is in need of special care from a neonatal unit. Their baby will not survive without neonatal care, and if they do they will be facing lifelong severe health problems without the care required.
Being a Syrian baby right now is a battle for life whether they are born a healthy baby, or if they are born premature. Either way they will have to battle for survival, however preterm babies have to fight even harder for that survival.
Sadly there are many babies who have been born who will never have a chance to meet their father or their mother, or in some cases will never have a chance to meet either parent and will only have a tragic tale of survival as their childhood memories.