Where Maternity Care is Scarce in War-Torn Syria, We Can Change the Story

The sun-blanched street stretches under an unforgiving sun. On either side of the sand-swept pavement, the few one and two-story cement buildings seem lifeless. No trees nor grass as far as the horizon. 

After 11+ years of war, this area of Idlib is bereft of services. There is no running water or electricity. There are no markets or pharmacies. Most of the region’s healthcare facilites were bombed between 2019-2020 during the ongoing civil war and have never been rebuilt. The few that survived that stretch of war have since closed or reduced their capacity as they have lost international funding. 

Having limited access to maternity care puts mothers at even greater risk because many cannot afford to travel to hospitals or clinics. In this region, the civil war has caused 97% of people to live in extreme poverty, and 80% need daily food assistance to survive. The price of food has increased five-fold in two years as the exchange rate continues to fall, putting the cost of food and medicine out of reach for most people. A new cholera epidemic–the first since the Syrian civil war began over 11 years ago–exacerbates Idlib’s hardships. Despite these challenges, the population in this area is growing rapidly as families fleeing violence arrive, searching for safety.

We set up a medical clinic in this area last year, where the need is greatest. Thanks to our community of peacemakers, we have been able to extend our reach by adding a mobile medical clinic to our stationary healthcare facility. We are the only organization providing a mobile clinic in this area. In May, 2022, we started the mobile medical clinic in order to serve families in rural villages, where transportation is prohibitively expensive, and most people do not have their own cars.

The clinic offers free services and medicine providing a variety of care, specifically helping children, the elderly, and pregnant and nursing mothers in five different locations a week. For pregnant women, the ability to get informed care through ultrasounds in such inhospitable areas makes the whole process of managing pregnancy a little less stressful. Since starting the mobile clinic, our impact has doubled as measured by the number of people we have served.

One of the people who benefited from our mobile medical clinic is Soultana, a 37-year-old mother of three children when we first met her. Unfortunately, her husband was killed in the on-going military operations in Idlib when Soultana discovered she was pregnant with quadruplets!

“I wasn’t able to access any hospital or to seek medical assistance as we are poor, and this conflict has caused us years and years of poverty” Soultana said. “The arrival of the mobile clinic team in our little village has delighted me and put an end to my worries about the pain from my pregnancy. I came for a check-up every week and the team welcomed me and gave me a ray of hope and love.”

Quadruplets! This is the second time we’ve helped usher a set of quads into the world. You can read about another Syrian family who welcomed a large addition here. Photo provided by partners.

We followed up with Soultana for weeks during her pregnancy. She recently gave birth to two pairs of beautiful, healthy boys and girls.

Thanks to you, we are finding new ways to change the story and better serve our friends in Syria. Recently, we’ve added a sun shade to our mobile clinic to offer some relief to waiting patients. Because going to the doctor is sometimes scary for children, we’re handing out nutritious biscuits to make the hospital experience more fun and to take a bite out of malnutrition. And, we’re conducting community health awareness sessions to share health care knowledge and principles.

Syrians have lost so much due to war, poverty, and violence. The present-day challenges may seem daunting, but working together, we can change the story from one of despair to one of hope.