Jordan: New hospital for mothers and children fleeing violence in Syria opens

20 Nov 2013
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A new MSF hospital for mothers and children who fled violence in Syria has opened in northern Jordan.

The 10-bed hospital offers maternity and neonatal care, as well as outpatient support for pregnant women. An 18-bed paediatric ward will be launched soon.

The first baby born in the new hospital was Mahmoud Al-Abideen Hammad’s son, Zain.

“I am so happy that we found this hospital and that my wife delivered our baby safely," says the new dad. "My son is very cute and I have named him Zain Al-Abideen. He is now in the neonatal care unit and MSF nurses are looking after him.”

Fleeing violence

Medical needs in the area are huge as the crisis in Syria has caused an unprecedented flow of refugees into neighbouring countries. There are currently over 540,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.

The majority – around 70 percent – are living outside of refugee camps, causing a strain on the country’s resources, including the health system, which is becoming increasingly overburdened. This strain also reduces access to healthcare for Jordanian citizens.

"Living in Homs was like attempting suicide"

Mahmoud and his family fled Syria in 2012: “Living in Homs was like attempting suicide. The continuous fighting made no distinction between civilians and fighters, children and adults. Any moving or even still object was a target.”

But as refugees, it was hard to afford medical care, says Mahmoud:  “When my wife was pregnant we couldn’t visit a doctor as we had no money to pay for a private consultation. For us, securing money to buy bread was more important than paying for a medical consultation. As a refugee you have to rearrange your living priorities.”

“My cousin lives here in Irbid and he told us that MSF offers mother and child care for free. At the beginning, I didn’t believe that it was for free, or that the level of care would be good.  

"But when I came here for the first consultation with my wife it was obvious that the level of care is very good and the staff are so kind. That’s why we decided to come back.”

Mother and child health

The hospital, which opened on 13th November, was set up in collaboration with the Jordanian Government. The MSF team is a mixture of 40 local medical and support staff, plus eight international aid staff.

MSF midwife Janine Issa said: “The team has been working very hard to get the project started. Starting a hospital is complex and demands a lot of effort to install all the equipment and furniture, establish MSF protocols, and hire and train the staff. The project has been running smoothly.”

She adds:  “We have a team of four Jordanian midwives with experience ranging from one to two years, supervised by a senior midwife who has about 20 years of experience.”

Babies born

Within two weeks, 29 babies had been born in the hospital. The project had also provided 142 antenatal consultations, 27 gynaecological consultations, 32 maternity admissions and eight neonatal admissions.

Marc Schakal, MSF Head of Mission in Jordan, says: “Opening this project in Irbid aims to serve Syrian refugees living in host communities, helping to free up resources for locals.”

“The MSF strategy of intervention for Syrian refugees comes in support of Jordanian efforts, and is built to meet the crisis dynamics within the country. Our objectives are three-fold: to work with refugees inside camps, with refugees in host communities, and to treat those wounded in the ongoing violence,” he adds.

 MSF has been present in Jordan since August 2006. It continues to receive Syrian and other patients affected by conflict at its surgical hospital in Amman, where it offers specialised surgical interventions; in addition to running a specialised surgical project for trauma patients in Ramtha MoH hospital. MSF has also been running a paediatrics hospital in Zaatari refugee camp since March 2013.

Read more about MSF's work in Jordan

Read more about MSF's work in Syria