This maternity ward in northern Jordan serves one of the biggest Syrian refugee populations in the world—but chances are you’ve never heard of it.
Since the 1947–49 Palestine war, Jordan has been a refuge for those fleeing from wars in the region. In the past 10 years, the country has welcomed more than 1 million refugees. The vast majority of them are from Syria, joining an already-substantial refugee community made up of Palestinians, Iraqis, and a smaller number of African refugees. There are currently 660,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, though the actual number is potentially twice as high.
Did you know that the overwhelming majority of refugees who have fled and survived war, persecution, or disasters don’t live in camps, but in and around cities? In fact, more than 80% of Syrian refugees in Jordan live in urban areas, with more than 136,000 of them living in Irbid, a city in northern Jordan close to the Syrian border where they live autonomously, but face challenges securing an income, affordable housing, and healthcare. Put differently, they are just trying to make ends meet, not unlike the communities that host them. Though the situation in Jordan isn’t rare, the brutal reality for most refugees is that about 70% live below the poverty line.
Against this backdrop, International Medical Corps is working hard to ensure that refugees and other displaced communities can access healthcare, both in Jordan’s main refugee camps and among urban refugees.
Women, girls, and children face some of the biggest challenges in humanitarian emergencies. Access to sexual reproductive health services is no exception. Though maternal and newborn deaths are rare in high-income countries, women facing war, disaster and displacement, as well as extreme poverty, face a different reality altogether.
International Medical Corps has run a maternity ward in Irbid since September 2018. At the ward, midwives, nurses, and doctors care for refugee mothers as they give birth in the midst of a deadly pandemic. It comprises a labor ward staffed by a professional team undertaking both normal and caesarean-section deliveries. In addition, a pediatrician examines every newborn baby at the clinic. International Medical Corps also offers outpatient services such as ante and postnatal care as well as family planning, pregnancy counselling, and nutritional support. Both treatment and medications are free of charge. The organization conducts follow-up care via telephone to all women who deliver at its facility, providing advice and monitoring the development of the baby and well-being of the mother. Overseen by highly-skilled pediatricians and nurses, its neonatal intensive care unit saves the lives of premature babies in need of around-the-clock specialist care, with the organization recently reaching an important milestone with 8,000 healthy babies having been delivered at the ward.
Although important progress has been made in the last decades, hundreds of thousands of women around the world still die during and following pregnancy and childbirth. This tragedy is as unacceptable as it is entirely preventable. Most maternal and newborn deaths are entirely preventable if women—no matter where they are born or live—have equal access to maternal care.
But simply surviving pregnancy and childbirth shouldn’t be our goal. Maternal healthcare doesn’t just save lives; it increases well-being among mothers and their babies together, laying the foundation for a healthier future for their families and the community at large. In this sense, safe motherhood is a prerequisite—a building block—for a world where we can all prosper.
International Medical Corps wouldn’t be able to help women, children, and men who have lost everything due to conflict, disaster, and disease without generous support from, among others, the private sector. Find out more about its work here.