Editor's Note:

NEW/AGE has chosen to publish a 2013 article on Midwives in Syria in light of increased militarized violence across the globe, particularly in Gaza, Ukraine, Libya, and Syria. As NPR's Dana Farrington noted in July of 2013, "Aid groups are increasingly relying on conflict midwives to help women in [conflict zones]. In dangerous and unstable regions, midwives' jobs are more than delivering babies: They often have to help women who have experienced sexual violence and have reproductive health issues."

Delivering Peace: Midwives in Syria

By Kit Dillon, October 2013

According to the UN Population Fund, about 200,000 Syrian women will become pregnant by the end of this year. Without the conveniences of modern hospitals, many of these woman will turn to the millennia-old practices of midwives. In fact, in areas of conflict, the reduced resources required for midwifery become critical. It is one of the many reasons why aid groups are increasingly relying on these practices, and the men and women who train in them, when they move to distressed areas around the globe.

Circle of Health International is one of these organizations. A small outfit based in Austin, it relies on its size to increase its flexibility in areas where situations can change in an instant. It is, in this way, not unlike the very practice of midwifery it helps to promote. 

“Because it’s a small organization, it has the flexibility to navigate the need as it comes up,” says Simone Lance, a practicing midwife has been ‘catching’ babies for three years now. “Basically, we’re a bunch of rogue-ass midwives and if the needs change in the next month then we’ll adjust and do what’s needed then.” 

Simone is one of the volunteers, currently raising donations, to bring supplies and her own years of experience to the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan on the edge of the Syrian conflict. So far the campaign has raised $8,500 of its stated $25,000 goal. Though the supplies required remains surprisingly minimal.

“For the majority of births, which are healthy and normal, supplies are fairly basic,” says Simone, “it requires electricity, which is why we’re bringing solar suitcases, sterilizing equipment, sutures, blankets for babies and hemorrhage medication for mom. The greatest risk during childbirth anywhere remains hemorrhage and it’s so easy to avoid with the right medication.” 

Currently, the Zaatari refugee camp houses an estimated 144,000 people. Already it is the 4th largest city in Jordan with its population only increases as the increasingly intractable situation in Syria continues on. There are several clinics and field hospitals established within the camp already, including a reproductive health clinic being run by UNFPA. 

By teaming with other organizations, including MADRE, a woman’s rights and health non-profit, Circle of Health International hopes to align its own expertise with resources already available within Zaatari itself. 

“There are 150 Syrian midwives already identified by MADRE, living within Zaatari who need supplies and support. A lot of women’s health care is normal health maintenance, it’s not emergency care. And pregnancy is just a normal process but it can be really scary if you aren’t prepared and don’t have people around who are trained.” 

Before the conflict, according to a recent Doctors Without Borders, “95 percent of Syrian women gave birth with a skilled birth attendant.” A fact which illustrates the drastic change of circumstances many expectant mothers now face in the region. 

“A large part of the midwifery is the bond we can build between ourselves and the mother,” explained Simone. “The thing is many of these woman, coming from the fairly modern society that was Syria, will be giving birth in suddenly drastic different circumstances. It’s as if you in Seattle or New York, were suddenly torn from your house and forced to give birth in a desert. In those moments, the bond between a midwife and mother becomes incredibly important.” 

For more information: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/delivering-peace-support-middle-east-midwives