Lebanon: Pregnant refugees seek assistance through the Syria Emergency Response Fund

10 Dec 2013

Hana’s twins suffered complications during delivery but recovered with neonatal care, supported by OCHA's Syria Emergency Response Fund. They are now healthy. Credit: UNRWA
Aid is reaching pregnant Syrian refugees in Lebanon, who are grappling with displacement, health concerns and higher medical costs.

In the summer of 2012, when Thawra Al Jabal fled violence and shelling in her hometown of Deir El Zoor, in Syria, she was two months pregnant.

“I left home with only my clothes on. All I could carry were my kids and our credentials,” says the 29-year-old mother of four. The family moved into a tent in the village of Baalool in West Bekaa, Lebanon.

By the time they arrived, Ms. Al Jabal knew something was wrong with her pregnancy. She felt exhausted and unwell, but she was reluctant to go to a doctor, fearing the cost.

When she learned that the health centre in Kamed El Laouz offered free prenatal consultations, she sought help immediately. The gynaecologist there referred her to a cardiologist, who diagnosed her with weakness in her aortic valve, a serious condition that would require a Caesarean-section delivery.

Over the following months, she experienced constant pain in her right leg and had difficulty moving. Her family feared she might not survive. “I needed a C-section, and I couldn’t afford hospitalization,” she says.

Fortunately, she learned about a maternal health programme operated by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) with funding from OCHA. The programme provides health assistance to Syrian mothers and infants, including prenatal consultations, neonatal care for infants and postnatal care for mothers. The programme covered the cost of Ms. Al Jabal’s C-section; her daughter, Zeinab, was born in early spring.

Ms. Al Jabal also attended four awareness sessions held by IOCC about breastfeeding, personal hygiene, nutrition and infant care. She is now breastfeeding Zeinab. “I believe in IOCC and in what IOCC says because they saved my life,” she said. “They said I should breastfeed my child exclusively for six months, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”

Hana Hajeer was also pregnant when she fled from Syria to Lebanon. In July of 2012, Ms. Hajeer, a Palestinian refugee, moved to Ein El Hilweh Camp in Saida, on Lebanon’s coast. 

For five years, she and her husband, Fadi, had dreamed of having children. But when she finally became pregnant – with twins – she was forced to leave the country alone. Her husband was unable to come with her. Once she reached the coast, she relied on support from her family in Lebanon and from the UN Relief and Works Agency.

When Ms. Hajeer went into labour during her eighth month of pregnancy, the twins suffered complications. The costs of the delivery and neonatal care were more than Ms. Hajeer could afford, but the family’s medical costs were supported with funds provided by OCHA’s Syria Emergency Response Fund [1].

The new mother and twins are now healthy, and Mr. Hajeer has arrived from Syria.

“The sight of my kids gives me the greatest feeling of being a father, and I only pray of being able to offer them the very best, as they offered me the world,” he said.

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[1] As of December 2013, the ERF has received $53.2 million in contributions and pledges ($27.8 million in 2012 and $25.4 million in 2013) from 19 Member States, as well as private donations. The ERF has allocated $42 million to 134 projects, reaching more than 5.3 million affected people in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

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