Farah* sat in her tent in Wadi Hmayed camp, uncomfortable and a little ashamed. “I see blood in my urine, a lot of blood most of the time,” the newly married 24-year-old told NOW softly.
Though Farah lives but a few steps from one of the camp’s medical facilities, she refused to pay the doctor a visit. “I don’t need a doctor, I’m sure,” she insisted. “It hurts sometimes, [but] other times I feel fine and healthy, and I even go out and help clean up the land and the tent before the next storm.”
Farah could be suffering from anything from urine infection to possible vaginitis or even menstrual disorder. But despite her condition, her husband is still expecting a baby. “We are still trying to have a baby, but sadly, it’s not happening. I really want a baby,” the young bride continued with tears in her eyes. “My husband told me that if we don’t have a baby soon, he will send me back to Syria. I love him and want him to be happy.”
“No one is currently following up on women’s health in Arsal,” says Dr. Mustafa, a thirty-year-old doctor treating children in need in Arsal’s camps. ”We are trying to reach an agreement with a gynecologist who can treat women regularly. We know that women in the camps are suffering and need constant follow-up.”
Giving birth has become very difficult for Syrian refugees in the Bekaa Valley. A general operations room has been established in Arsal, but only for emergency cases. With the camps dramatically underserved, Al Rayan hospital and others in Chtoura are continuously receiving Syrian women.
“We came to a sort of agreement with these hospitals with the support of individual donors and the UNHCR,” Dr. Mustafa explained. “They receive pregnant women and follow up as much as they can, but the women have to eventually go back to the camps, which is where the crisis begins.”
NOW spoke to a gynecologist, who preferred to remain anonymous, about the medical conditions faced by women refugees. When NOW explained Farah’s case, she told NOW, “Any ordinary disease or inflammation should be examined and treated. Farah’s case might be a simple urine infection, but if neglected, it might develop, causing fever and a possible septic shock. Farah has to be examined and treated as soon as possible. Any patient should be examined and treated accordingly.”
Sahar, a young Syrian woman whom NOW interviewed last month for an article on child marriages, spoke to NOW again on the issue of women’s health in refugee camps. “The women are scared, not only of strangers but also of their husbands,” she said. “It is not easy to convince them to visit a doctor or to be examined, even if the doctor is a woman.”
Sahar told NOW that she had attempted to examine a girl who had been bruised and raped in Wadi Khaled. The girl’s mother had been too afraid to allow a specialist to see her; a few months later, Sahar said, the girl had disappeared, most likely dead.
In the midst of these conditions, UNICEF has reported that a child is born in a Syrian refugee camp every hour.
”Why would any woman want to have kids in such conditions?” demanded Zeina, a young woman from Bab Amro currently living in a Bar Elias camp. “I don’t understand! I am 18 years old. Yes, I want to get married and fall in love, I want to have a baby, but this is not the right time! Did you see our ‘toilets’ here? Look at it! It flooded last week because of the rain!”
Meanwhile, 17-year-old Abu Mahmoud wanders through Wadi Hmayed camp, asking for a carpet. “I need a carpet. Everything in my tent is ready and the bride is waiting; the only thing missing is a carpet. When I get that, I can get married.”
*Some of the above names have been changed at the interviewees’ request.
Published on NOW (https://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/reportsfeatures/527355-suffering-silently)