July 15, 2014
Throughout the turmoil of this crisis, women and children remain incredibly vulnerable. Women and children make up 75% of the refugee population. Syrian refugees and IDPs are especially vulnerable. In onestudy, 452 Syrian women living in Lebanon who were between the ages of 18-45, were interviewed. This study found that a third of the women interviewed were exposed to violence as a result of the conflict and 73 were pregnant at some point during the conflict. A quarter of all children delivered by the sample group were preterm and there were complications in over a third of their pregnancies (the most common being hemorrhaging).
SAMS is aware of the importance of providing specialized care to women and has established OB/GYN and neonatal facilities inside Syria. Furthermore, SAMS’s heroic physicians have performed C-sections in hospitals with no electricity and no anesthesia. In June alone, a SAMS supported obstetrics facility performed nearly 50 C-sections and over a 100 natural births. Women face additional challenges when searching for a female physician (particularly a female gynecologist). In addition, the increased threat of gender and sexual-based violence associated with checkpoints and road closures make it more difficult for women to travel to another city to avoid violence and areas under siege. SAMS has taken several positive steps to address these challenges. SAMS mobile clinics in Northern Syria always employ midwives and nurses as part of their team. These mobile clinics also target rural areas and IDP camps. Having the mobile clinic come to them makes it much easier for women, children, and IDPs to access preventative and life-saving health care.
Similarly, providing medical care to children in a conflict zone presents unique obstacles. Not only are children in Syria more susceptible to illness and malnutrition, but some face the harsh conditions of the conflict without a parent to look out for them. According to UNICEF more than 8,000 children have crossed the Syrian border without their parents. SAMS physicians are determined to meet the needs of this vulnerable population. They regularly treat children in facilities with broken windows and no protection from the elements, and without a functioning generator. One doctor reported seeing patients in Aleppo when the temperature was a harsh 15˚F (-9˚C), which made it difficult to use a stethoscope and thermometer due to the freezing temperature.
In a time of conflict, it is easy to overlook routine health problems. But prenatal care and providing preventative care to children should be prioritized. SAMS understands this need and is doing its part to alleviate the suffering faced by Syrian women and children. To achieve this goal, SAMS increased its support of OB/GYN and neonatal medical facilities and targets hard-to-reach areas through the use of SAMS mobile clinics. In addition, SAMS saves the lives of Syrian children by providing polio vaccinations and by working with other organizations to monitor, respond to, and address epidemics that threaten the lives of Syrian children.
SAMS is also active in advocating for health care provision and protection for Syria’s most vulnerable populations. SAMS members testify at congressional hearings, give presentations to the United Nations, and work with other partners on campaigns to end the suffering of all Syrian civilians. SAMS is also proactively working with partners to address additional healthcare needs of women affected by the crisis including monitoring and treating cases of sexual and gender-based violence. Physicians working in SAMS facilities have reported many instances of women who face sexual violence and assault, at times in front of their families. In addition, SAMS psychosocial programs provide support for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence among refugees and IDPs. SAMS encourages you to join our advocacy efforts by speaking out against the injustices faced by Syria’s most vulnerable today. Follow us on Facebook and twitter. Together we can #SaveSyrianLives.