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Refugee Stories

How midwives support the journeys of refugee mothers

When refugee women are forced to flee, they are often separated from their support network of family, friends and loved ones. This support network is vital to many women during pregnancy and childbirth, but displaced women are often forced to face these milestones alone. 

For refugees especially, the role of midwives can’t be understated. Midwives and maternity-focused health clinics not only keep mothers and their babies healthy, but they also offer kindness, education and empowerment during a time of uncertainty. 

See the care that midwives provide every day for displaced mothers, and how their skill and compassion have fostered hope for countless refugee families. 

Displaced midwife in Bangladesh 

rohingya woman holds child

When she was just 15-years-old, Noor began working as a midwife with her mother. For several years, she traveled from village to village in Myanmar and helped deliver countless babies. When she was forced to flee to Bangladesh in 1992, she brought her skills and passion with her. 

During the influx of Rohingya refugees in 2017, hundreds of thousands of refugee women were forced to flee to Bangladesh, many of whom were also expectant mothers. Noor stepped up in her community to work as a midwife and support new mothers around her camp. 

Today, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, support Rohingya mothers and their children through nutrition facilities and Mother-to-Mother programs. With the support of community health volunteers and midwives like Noor, the facilities help educate new mothers about infant and young child feeding practices.

Maternity clinic for Syrian refugees in Iraq

displaced syrian woman lays next to her newborn child

Dalia’s first pregnancy came at a time of great uncertainty. She was forced to flee her home in Syria with her husband, separating her from her mother, sisters and friends. When her first son was born, her options for maternal care in Iraq were limited. With only a midwife in attendance to support her, Dalia gave birth to her son on the concrete floor of her tent. 

Fortunately, a maternity clinic for Syrian refugees was opened in time for the arrival of Dalia’s daughter, Joza. The clinic is near the Domiz refugee camp in Iraq and offers neonatal care to more than 40,000 Syrian refugee mothers, as well as women from the surrounding host community. The maternity clinic is supported through a partnership between UNHCR and Doctors Without Borders, and ensures that mothers and their babies are safe and healthy throughout the course of the pregnancy.

Kangaroo care hospitals in Cameroon 

portrait of midwife in cameroon

Monique is a midwife in a Cameroonian hospital that serves refugees from the Central African Republic and families from the host community. Medical resources are limited, so the hospital plays an essential role in providing education and awareness for the community. 

Many children born in Monique’s hospital are premature or malnourished, putting them at risk for hypothermia and other health complications. The hospital does not have enough incubators for all of the newborns, so Monique is responsible for teaching new mothers alternative methods for keeping their children healthy. One of these methods is the Kangaroo care method. 

The Kangaroo care method encourages mothers to hold their newborns close to their chest for skin-to-skin contact. This method has countless benefits, including improving the baby’s health, decreasing stress and helping newborns maintain their body temperature without an incubator. 

This simple yet effective initiative is funded through a partnership between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and UNHCR. Monique shares how improved education has been life-changing for the hospital, “We regularly lost babies to hypothermia,” Monique explains. “Beyond the body warmth, there is also the emotional part. The baby is constantly in contact with the mother who will immediately sense if something is wrong.” 

How you can help… 

For refugee mothers, the uncertainty that comes with a new child is only exacerbated by displacement. UNHCR supports programs around the world that work to uplift, educate and protect refugee mothers and children on their journeys to safety. By becoming a monthly donor, you can help turn these families’ uncertainties into hope. 

May 5 2021

MATCH EXTENDED: Turn your love into TWICE the lifesaving aid and TWICE the hope for resilient refugees around the world. Ends 6/21. GIVE NOW >>

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