Many of you will have read about Aya1, the baby pulled from the rubble still attached by her umbilical cord to her mother, who had been killed when the building collapsed in Jenderis, NW Syria on 6th February. Aya was the sole survivor of her family. She will grow up never knowing her parents or her four siblings. It is a truly heart-breaking story, and seeing it as a relatively new mother, it takes on new resonance. My heart breaks for the relationship she will never have with the person who brought her into the world; her mother.
At the same time, I am in awe of Aya’s extraordinary ability to survive. In all the destruction; the terrible loss of life, the fear, the broken buildings, things, memories and families, this brand-new baby lived. I cannot think of a greater example of hope in the most devastating of circumstances. I also cannot think of a greater reason for us to take action, because Aya is not alone.
Hundreds of Syrian children have been orphaned or separated from their parents following the earthquakes. As with everything in northern Syria, the numbers are hard to count. The sheer volume of people living in informal camps or crowding into relatives’ homes having been internally displaced by war or natural disaster, means that accurate data is difficult to access. In Idlib last month, 65 children2 had been registered as new orphans as a result of the earthquakes, in reality the number will be far greater.
Among earthquake survivors, there are more than 226,000 pregnant women in Turkey and 130,000 in Syria. Of these, 38,800 are expected to deliver in the next month.3 Every woman deserves access to the support and healthcare needed during and after pregnancy, but the reality in northern Syria is that these services are hard to come by.
Syria’s health system has been shattered by 12 years of conflict, and prior to February 6th, was not able to meet demands. The earthquakes have made the situation even worse; closing health facilities, scattering health professionals, complicating supply chains and putting more pressure on the few remaining health clinics.
I believe that these people, Aya and all the children like her, the mothers waiting to give birth, deserve more. They deserve to live in a safe environment, with access to good healthcare, food and schools for their children. They deserve support in the wired, tired wonderland after giving birth. At the very least, they deserve to spend mother’s day with their families.
While we can’t undo the trauma caused by the earthquake, we can help provide some of the simplest things; a step on the path to the very least these people deserve. With our partners SAMS (Syrian American Medical Society) and PAC (Physicians Across Continents) we are providing:
- women’s health services at a Primary Health Clinic for a local community of 50,000 people. The midwife provides around 1,600 consultations each month
- Breast Milk Substitutes (baby milk) for 3,000 mothers unable to breastfeed (many as a result of trauma) and orphans who have no alternative source of nutrition.
- 300 Baby Milk kits so that carers can safely prepare milk with uncontaminated water
It isn’t anything close to enough, but it is making a tangible difference to the lives of these women and children and we are so proud to be able to do that.
I wish you the happiest mother’s day. As I spend it with my new family, I will also be thinking of Aya, all the children like her and all the mothers in Syria who deserve so much more.
- £12 covers the cost of 5 baby milk cartons or 4 milk preparation kits
- £26.42/month over a year covers a month’s salary for a midwife. A midwife’s salary is £317/month.