Syria, officially known as the Syrian Arab Republic, is a war-torn country in Western Asia. These war efforts have caused a series of attacks against women’s health care in Syria and made female health care more difficult to come by. In Syria’s civil war, violent attacks continue to target health care workers and clinics, and particularly female health clinics.
Fear of Attack
Fear of attack also plays a role in keeping women from what health resources they do have. Many of the childbirth centers that remain are located in rural areas, making them difficult for many women to reach. Fear of attack in the vicinity of health clinics inhibits patients and health professionals alike. The regime’s campaign of gender-based sexual violence is a large contributor to this fear. The vulnerability that comes with the travel necessary to reach the available health clinics put women at further risk of attack.
These attacks and the consequent shutdown of many maternal health facilities are seriously threatening maternal health. Between 2011 and 2017, more than 320 health clinics suffered attacks. These attacks have resulted in the deaths of at least 826 health workers, 85 of whom were women. By the end of 2015, only 16 of the 43 childbirth centers previously available in Syria remained. The lack of access to these facilities and health professionals leave many women with no safe conditions to deliver their children. Moreover, they have no opportunity for checkups or preventative shots once they deliver their children.
Overall Health Care
The conflict also threatens basic preventative care for women. Things like mammograms and regular checkups are no longer available and few female health professionals remain in Syria, making health care even more difficult for practicing Muslims to find. Gynecological services and even menstruation pads are incredibly difficult to come by. Women who do survive the hardships of the war suffer from malnutrition and struggle with even the basic necessities for survival.
The Molham Volunteering Team
In the midst of the conflict, however, there are efforts to preserve and improve female health care. Groups like the Molham Volunteering Team are working to fill in the gaps in women’s health care in Syria. A group of Syrian students brought this group together to provide necessities, such as food and medicine, to Syrians in need. When crises emerge, the Molham Volunteering Team assembles emergency campaigns to help, such as its campaign to raise money to support victims of the attacks targeting Maarat Al-Numan. The campaign has nearly reached its goal of $250,000.
Another focus of the Molham Volunteering Team is to raise the funds necessary to cover hospital fees for women and other costs of childbirth. It has even begun a campaign to raise money in support of health workers and clinics against the attacks. To date, the campaign has raised about a quarter of its $10,000 goal.
The Violet Organization
The Violet Organization, a nonprofit organization in Turkey, has opened a health center in rural Idlib where women have access to maternal and reproductive health care. A group of young volunteers, with the goal of helping secure the basic needs of families through food and cash donations, founded The Violet Organization. Today, The Violet Organization focuses not only on immediate aid but also on long-term projects like the Idlib health center, which offers treatment for ovarian and breast cancer, as well as basic checkups and consultations.
The Mazaya Center
The Mazaya Center attempts to educate women about their health issues. The Mazaya Center, which volunteers started to empower women, is another nonprofit organization that focuses on women’s issues in northern Syria. It provides paramedic training and first aid classes. These two-month training sessions, which female nurses lead, aim to educate women about reproductive and maternal health as well as family issues.
In the face of the Syrian civil war, civilians are struggling to find the basic necessities for survival, and safe access to women’s health care in Syria has become yet another casualty. Despite the looming threat to women and health professionals, it is evident that there are people continuing their work to ensure that health care and education are available to the women who need it most.
– Amanda Gibson