"I didn’t know what would happen to my babies"
Saving Mothers and Babies in Jordan
When 20-year-old Khatoon learned that she was pregnant with twins, she felt both happiness and worry. “My mother was once pregnant with twins,” she recalls, “but ended up with stillborn babies.”
As a Syrian refugee living in a camp in Jordan, the young woman was all the more worried about her chances for a safe delivery.
Originally from Al Reqqa, Syria, Khatoon used to live with her father, mothers and siblings. She remembers helping her family earn a living - agriculture being their main source of income - but when conflict grew violent, staying in Al Reqqa grew increasingly difficult, and Khatoon left with her brother to take refuge in Jordan. They entered Amman in 2014, joining their relatives nearby. Shortly after, Khatoon got married and moved from Amman to Azraq refugee camp, where she now lives with her husband and their daughter.
It was in Azraq camp that Khatoon learned that she was pregnant again - this time with twins. “We were very happy – but I was also scared, I didn’t know what would happen to my babies,” she says.
Despite success in reforming the country’s health systems over the last decade, ongoing conflict in the region and large numbers of refugees seeking safety, especially from Syria and Iraq, have led to an incredible strain on Jordan’s resources. Today, more than 700,000 Syrian refugees live within the country, often crowded in areas with limited access to health care, education and other services, which are stretched to their breaking point.
To support those in need, International Medical Corps works in camps like Azraq with high refugee populations to provide essential health services, with funding from the European Union. At Azraq Camp Hospital, these include primary health care, mental health support and medical education courses, as well as antenatal and postnatal care to promote women’s health. For refugees like Khatoon, these services can mean the difference between a safe delivery and stillbirth.
More than a week before her due date, Khatoon started experiencing an acute pain in her stomach.
She and her husband contacted an ambulance, so she could be transferred to the hospital as soon as possible.
“Although I had a baby girl before, labour is something you can never get used to,” Khatoon says, explaining her caution.
Fifteen minutes later, Khatoon arrived at the hospital, where she was immediately examined by an obstetrician who confirmed that she was in labour and ready to give birth. But one of the babies, the obstetrician observed with an ultrasound machine, was in transverse lie – a sideways position meaning that a natural delivery would be too risky, both for the babies and for Khatoon herself.
With the main C-section delivery theatre already occupied, the staff needed to act within minutes to get the spare room ready for a C-section – minutes that would be crucial to the safe delivery of the babies and to saving the mother’s life.
Thanks to the staff’s commitment, it only took eight minutes for Khatoon to be transferred to the spare room and thirty minutes for her to give birth – and the family welcomed two beautiful and healthy baby boys. Once a paediatrician confirmed that both the mother and the babies were in good health, Khatoon was transferred to the maternity ward to rest.
Currently, Khatoon regularly visits the clinics with her husband to check on the babies, receive any needed vaccinations and attend her postnatal care visits.
Khatoon explains that taking care of twins is hard for her and her husband, but the support she has received at the camp, as well as access to ongoing care and supplies such as milk formulas, has made all the difference.
“I feel very happy to have two healthy babies and can’t appreciate your efforts enough,” she says, referring to all the hospital staff and International Medical Corps.