UPDATE: For the latest on the refugee pregnancy assistance program see our page specifically for it: Pregnant Syrian Refugee Relief
When we began to help the first pregnant refugee out here last fall of 2016, we did not expect that within the next 7 months we would have 18 more refugee women come seeking help for their deliveries.
We have been able to help bring 11 refugee babies into the world to date, and we have at least 8 more pregnant women getting regular pre-natal checks with 4 ready to deliver this month, and one of them has twins too!
The vast majority of the women come with almost no pre-natal care, often malnourished, anemic and at high-risk of a complicated or potentially life-threatening delivery. Life as a refugee is already hard, but trying to maintain a healthy pregnancy during it is near impossible.
These women also often come to us late, in the 8th or 9th month, as they do not hear about us until it is almost too late. This means we have to deal at times with irreversible pre-natal issues going into their delivery.
So far we have had 4 babies end up with prolonged NICU stays due to pre-mature labor or serious health issues after delivery. Thankfully, every child has lived!
Why Helping Pregnant Refugees Is Important
Those a little more cynical might ask, why help bring more refugee babies into the world when they have such bleak prospects and are already a numerical burden on their host nation and families?
It is a harsh question, but one the refugees ask – and answer – at times themselves. It is not uncommon to see in the news out here a report of someone finding a barely-living Syrian baby left to die in a dumpster on the streets.
Often the baby is found in time by a passersby or shop owner near the dumpster, and is brought to the hospital in time to survive. But there are times it is too late, and the baby dies.
Women and families living in desperate conditions out here do desperate things, even throwing their own children in the garbage.
With limited access to pre-natal care, limited finances for a healthy hospital delivery, and limited resources for their family to support another child, some are moved to do the unthinkable.
We help because we value every life that God created. The life of a Syrian refugee woman’s baby matters just as much as that of a middle-class American woman’s baby, even though their access to care is disproportionate.
We help because we want to help them avoid having to make a desperate decision like the poor women who leave their children to die in the dumpster. We help to show the compassion of Christ, that they know they have people who care for their family and baby’s life.
How We Are Helping These Women
We do not deliver the babies ourselves. Midwifery is not uncommon in the Middle East, and we have even had certified midwives out here help train some of our volunteers on pre/post-natal care.
But due to most of the women being high-risk deliveries – frequently they need blood transfusions post-birth, and almost 40% of the babies end up in the NICU – we must utilize local hospitals with basic facilities.
We have established an informal partnership with a local doctor who has taken an interest in helping advocate for the refugee women and ensures the facility staff treats them fairly (which doesn’t always happen for refugees).
We help with pre-natal care (including vitamins) and doctor visits prior to the birth, and also ensure post-natal follow up for all of the women and babies.
This usually means providing diapers, baby clothes, and baby formula when needed (though we strongly encourage natural breastfeeding when the mother’s health allows it).
We almost always have a female volunteer with the women when they deliver as well, often serving as their ‘birthing’ coach to help them through.
That also means our volunteers sometimes have late-night, frantic drives to the hospital with a refugee woman in labor in the backseat. Ambulances are unreliable, if even available, and thus the women need reliable transport when labor comes, which is often us!
How You Can Help Refugee Moms and Babies
The biggest need right now is help sponsoring these births. Each natural, non-caesarean delivery is approximately $500 as well as milk/diapers for the following period after the birth. A c-section, which happens about half the time, is $1,000.
The NICU stays are unpredictable, but are usually $500 up-front and then they don’t let the baby out until another $500 is paid (yes, they will hold the baby as ‘collateral’ in a sense, and not give them back in some situations if the family can’t raise the money for it. Imagine that!).
You can also commit to pray regularly for these moms – we currently have 8 more mothers nearing full term and likely more will find us in coming months. Pray for healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries. Pray our volunteers can really serve these women in a way that tangibly shows the love of Christ. Pray these actions will open further doors into their lives and families for future follow up.
If anyone wanted to help sponsor a baby’s birth, we would make sure to provide some information on the family’s situation and a picture of mom & baby after delivery, as well as provide you a chance to write to them if you’d like.
Thank you to everyone who is already involved in helping these refugee women. If you are not yet, and wish to help, you can contact us to sponsor a birth or provide general help financially with these and other needs. It would be greatly appreciated by us, and these women’s families.