Stories

“The Struggle of Refugee Motherhood in Lebanon’s Crisis”

Highlighting the crucial role of midwives in providing essential support to vulnerable women and girls residing in informal settlements, facing challenges in accessing high-quality sexual reproductive health services (SRH).

A young adult woman sits in a tented home.

Marta, 29 years old, a Syrian community member photographed during a midwife consultation in a tented home at an informal settlement in Serraaine, North Bekaa, on the 7th of February 2024.   Marta has been pregnant for seven weeks and is following up on her consultation with Medair’s midwife, Zeina, after receiving her first consultation at the Medair-supported Serraaine primary health care centre in North Bekaa. ©Medair/Abdul Dennaoui

“The constant overcoming of obstacles is a daily burden. I worry about the future for us. How will I feed my child if I can barely afford to feed myself? I need to prioritize my health because my child’s health depends on it,” says Marta.

More than twelve years into the Syrian conflict, Lebanon continues to suffer from one of the world’s worst socio-economic crises, exacerbated by factors like the Ukrainian conflict, COVID-19, a cholera outbreak, and the devastating Beirut port explosion. Lebanon’s economy, already fragile due to decades of political instability and corruption, has been further destabilized by the influx of refugees. It remains at the forefront of a severe humanitarian crisis, hosting the highest per capita refugee population, with an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees seeking shelter since the conflict began. The crisis in Syria continues to impact Lebanon’s economy, public institutions, and population, leaving both refugee and host communities grappling with restricted access to necessities like food, healthcare, education, and employment, alongside the depreciation of the Lebanese Pound and high inflation rates.

Living through a crisis in Lebanon as both a refugee and an expectant mother can be overwhelming. As a refugee, individuals deal with the consequences of displacement, insecurity, and an unclear future. Being forced to flee, involves leaving behind family members, familiar environments, and support systems, adding plenty of emotional stress. For pregnant women, the main challenge becomes access to essential healthcare services, with the utmost priority being ensuring a healthy pregnancy. This struggle is heightened for pregnant refugee women, amplifying the difficulties they face in their daily lives. For Marta, a 29-year-old Syrian, who sought refuge in Lebanon with her family, this is her unfortunate reality.

A young pregnant adult woman gets her blood pressure checked by a skilled healthcare professional.

Marta, 29 years old, a Syrian community member has her blood pressure measured by Zainab, Medair’s midwife, during a midwife consultation in a tented home at an informal settlement in Serraaine, North Bekaa, on the 7th of February 2024. ©Medair/Abdul Dennaoui

I met Marta during a midwife consultation at an informal settlement in Baalbek-El Hermel, Bekaa Valley where she discussed the progress of her pregnancy. My first impression of her was that she seemed a very quiet but pleasant person. At seven weeks pregnant, Marta lives in an overcrowded tented settlement in the Valley with her family. An overcrowded tented home is not safe or ideal for an expectant mother, but she has no other option. Like all refugees in Lebanon, she strives to meet her basic needs daily with limited resources. Marta’s heart weighs heavy with worry, as she contemplates her future and the well-being of her unborn child amidst the instability and chaos of their surroundings.

During the consultation, Marta shared her family’s recent struggles with me. She mentioned her family’s decision to cut back on meals due to the rising prices of essential items among their financial instability. An expectant mother shouldn’t have to endure such hardships, but Marta seemed determined to prioritize her health and the health of her baby above all else. As Marta shares her feelings, her eyes glisten. “As an expectant mother in my circumstances, each day is an uphill battle,” she says. “The stability of our living conditions is uncertain, and accessing necessities like food, water, electricity, and healthcare is a constant struggle. The constant overcoming of obstacles is a daily burden. I worry about the future for us. How will I feed my child if I can barely afford to feed myself? I need to prioritize my health because my child’s health depends on it.”

A young pregnant adult woman gets her blood oxygen levels checked by a skilled healthcare professional.

Marta, 29 years old, a Syrian community member has her body’s blood oxygen level measured by Zainab, Medair’s midwife, during a midwife consultation in a tented home at an informal settlement in Serraaine, North Bekaa, on the 7th of February 2024. ©Medair/Abdul Dennaoui

Despite the challenges, Marta still feels blessed that she has access to essential health services. “It’s a blessing that amidst rising costs and the ongoing crisis, I am still here, being cared for by a professional,” she says. “Having someone come to me means I can prioritize my health and the health of my baby, without worrying too much about how to afford transportation or navigate the instability around me.”

Being consulted by a midwife in her tented home, Marta has been able to take note of the necessary adjustments required for a healthy pregnancy, whilst following up on her health and the health of her unborn child. “Today, during my follow-up consultation, I had my blood pressure taken, my oxygen, and my blood sugar levels checked,” she says. “Zainab (Medair’s midwife) informed me that my iron intake was low. This is due to the lack of proper weight gain during my pregnancy, so this is an area for me to try and improve as much as I possibly can, moving forward. Without this consultation today, I probably would have not known of my iron deficiency.”

Marta’s determination to provide a better future for herself and her unborn child shines brightly. Expectant mothers like Marta, have various needs to ensure a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. For a person living in Marta’s shoes, meeting those needs comes with many obstacles. At the end of the consultation, it comforted me to know that Marta was being cared for by a professional. I hope Marta continues to ensure a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery, and I pray for positive outcomes for both her as a mother and her baby.

 

 


Medair’s health services in Lebanon are funded by the German Federal Foreign Office and generous private donors.

This content was produced with resources gathered by Medair field and headquarters staff. The views expressed herein are those solely of Medair and should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of any other organisation.