Care, advice and a listening ear: How MAP’s community midwives have helped one mother and her baby displaced from Syria

Medical Aid for Palestinians’ (MAP’s) Senior Programme Officer, Wafa Dakwar, joined community midwife Sonia on her visits in Beddawi refugee camp in North Lebanon. Here she describes how these visits have helped a Palestinian refugee mother care for her new baby while displaced by the conflict in Syria.

On the outskirts of Beddawi camp, the home for 25,000 Palestinian refugees, lives Sahar* with her husband and four young children. A few years ago, Sahar fled with her family to Lebanon when the war in Syria intensified. She took shelter in a small two-room apartment in an unfinished building that was mostly inhabited by other refugees from Syria.

The road to her house is unpaved and the stairway is long and dark. The walls of the house are unpainted, and the floor is concrete. Old fabric sheets replace missing windows. As winter approaches, Sahar’s fears grow. “Winter here is very cold. In Syria we had a stove in the middle of the living room that kept us warm all winter. Now, we don’t have a heating stove, nor glass windows to protect us from wind and rain,” she explained. This year, Sahar is very anxious as she has a newborn baby who might not be able to endure the cold weather.

Sahar gave birth to baby girl, Lilian*, four months ago. Soon after the birth, she was visited by MAP’s Maternal and Child Health (MCH) project’s community midwives who provide home-visits to around 3,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers and their infants every year. When the MCH midwife, Sonia, knocked on the door, Sahar rushed to open it with an inviting smile and warm welcoming words. Her two daughters were standing behind her to greet the midwife.

Sahar described the importance of the midwife: “It was my first pregnancy in Lebanon away from my family and the country that I grew up in. The midwife was my source of support, and she took care of my health and listened to my concerns. Whenever I faced a health- or pregnancy-related problem, I would just follow her advice and my condition would improve. She always answers my calls and responds to my queries even in the evening after her working hours. She really cares.”

The project prioritises women like Sahar who need its services the most, including those who are very young or first-time mothers, families displaced from Syria, high-risk pregnancies, and families with children with disabilities.

Sahar was eagerly waiting for Sonia’s visit; she wanted to hear her opinion about Lilian’s growth and development. The midwife examined the baby carefully and checked her height, weight, and head circumference. She checked the baby’s development by looking at progress in abilities such as social, linguistic, and fine motors skills.  The midwife informed Sahar that Lilian is doing very well and praised her baby-care skills, which made Sahar very happy.

Previously Sahar had grown worried because Lilian has not been putting on weight as much as the neighbour’s baby even though they are the same age. Sahar’s neighbors advised her to give the baby formula milk, which caused her to have stomach problems and in turn lose weight and fall behind her growth curve. In her last visit, Sonia explained to Sahar that there is a normal growth range which Lilian falls into, which means that not all children will weigh the same at a certain given ages, with every child growing at his/her own pace. Sonia also explained the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and the risks related to artificial feeding. Sahar proudly informed the midwife that she followed her advice and went back to exclusively breastfeeding the baby after the last home-visit, and Lilian has since put on healthy weight.

The midwife has also provided post-natal care for the mother, including screening for infections, family planning counselling, and nutritional advice. Sonia asked about the other children in the family, prompting Sahar to open up about her concerns that Lilian would have a liver condition similar to her sister’s. She spoke about the financial difficulties the family is facing and the hard decisions they are making to ensure that their children are safe and healthy. Sahar needed someone to listen to her concerns and to reassure her, which Sonia provided. The MCH midwives are trained to provide basic psychosocial support which many new mothers in the camps need where they face social, economic, and security problems.

Sahar thanked MAP for the MCH project and the midwife for her visit, and together, they decided on the date of the next home visit.

By supporting MAP, you are helping us keep our essential home-visiting midwifery service running, and giving Palestinian babies in Lebanon a better chance of a brighter future.

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* Names have been changed to protect identity.

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