Idlib crisis: Pregnant women and babies at risk as they flee violence

01 Jul 2019 by Gabriel Thomas, News Media Advisor
Idlib crisis: Pregnant women and babies at risk as they flee violence

High numbers of pregnant women, vulnerable infants and young children are fleeing the bombardment of Idlib in north-western Syria, World Vision warns today.

A new needs assessment from the aid agency’s partners in Idlib reveals that one in three displaced families interviewed includes at least one pregnant woman. More than half of families included a breastfeeding woman and young child. 

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the fighting and many are now living in overcrowded informal camps, shelters and open fields, without proper healthcare, clean water or shelter. There have been numerous reports of women giving birth outside under the trees, and newborns are spending their first days without protection from the elements.

“It’s hard to imagine the trauma, distress and physical toll that the flight from air strikes and bombs has on families in Idlib. And it's even worse for pregnant women and those with babies and young children,” says Caroline Anning, Syria Advocacy Director at World Vision. 

Intensive air strikes and artillery bombardments in Idlib have already displaced more than 330,000 people – at least half of them children. The UN says at least 230 civilians have been killed. Mark Lowcock, the UN’s humanitarian chief, told the Security Council that the world is facing “a humanitarian disaster unfolding before our eyes.”

World Vision is calling for an urgent ceasefire, and for all parties to the conflict to protect civilians, particularly children who remain trapped in frontline areas.

Most of the people forced to flee are moving to areas in the north of Idlib governorate, which are already densely populated and host large numbers of previously displaced families. World Vision is responding through partners on the ground, distributing dignity kits and deploying mobile medical units. 

However, aid agencies risk being overwhelmed with thousands of people sleeping outdoors without proper shelter or sanitation, women giving birth without medical assistance and the threat of disease spreading in crowded camps. One medical facility supported by World Vision close to the border has seen an increase in patients of 70 per cent in the last month and children are sleeping on the floors.

The emergency response is under-funded, and World Vision is urging the international community to increase its support. The charity has also called on world leaders to step up efforts to work with parties to the conflict to find a political solution to the deadly violence and ensure civilians are protected.

Chloe Irvine, Head of External Affairs, World Vision New Zealand  |  ‚Äč+64 22 340 4271