How Does Conflict Affect Newborn Babies? Written by: Executive Director, Heidi Cortez In modern-day conflicts, civilians are increasingly exposed to war. In an estimation, since 2011, one in four people in the world live in a conflict zone. Often in these conflicts, civilian locations are bombed, including healthcare facilities. War ... Read More»
How Does Conflict Affect Newborn Babies?
Written by: Executive Director, Heidi Cortez
In modern-day conflicts, civilians are increasingly exposed to war. In an estimation, since 2011, one in four people in the world live in a conflict zone. Often in these conflicts, civilian locations are bombed, including healthcare facilities. War indirectly affects civilians by creating high-stress levels leading to trauma disorders. In our studies, we have found that war directly impacts newborn survival. A recent UNICEF report showed that Sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia have the highest neonatal mortality rates. These are all areas where there is constant conflict. Our research shows a direct correlation between higher neonatal mortality rates (deaths out of 1,000 within the first 28 days of life) and war.
Newborn babies need help.
- 26 million newborns will die if nothing changes between 2019 and 2030
- In 2019, 47% of all under five deaths were newborns.
- 7,000 newborns die everyday.
- Of all child deaths under age 15, 2.5 million occurred within the first month of life
- 61% of deaths are because of poor quality of care
- 80% of newborn deaths occur from preventable causes- prematurity, infection, and asphyxia
So how exactly does conflict increase newborn deaths?
War causes trauma. Civilians exposed to conflicts have their lives turned upside down. They fear for their safeties and their families’ safeties. War forces people from their homes where they need to take shelter in a refugee camp. Many leave behind businesses and livelihoods. Many lost loved ones either in bombings, being caught in the crossfire, or directly killed by militias. It is a time of pure survival.
Now, imagine giving birth in the midst of this. Studies show that pregnant women experiencing high levels of psychosocial stress will often have a shorter gestation period. Without the proper time to develop fully, babies are born with health issues. Most commonly, they are born prematurely and with very low weight. Sadly, many pass away within the first moments of life.
This problem alone is bad enough. The indirect effects of conflict create a problem for newborn survival right out the gate. But it gets even worse. Babies born prematurely or with low birth weights will often need medical intervention. The problem now is- conflict destroys healthcare. We studied wars in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Iraq. They all follow a similar pattern. Healthcare facilities and healthcare workers are often targeted or caught in the crossfire. We have seen this in, particularly Syria and the Congo. We don’t understand it. We cannot fathom how someone would destroy something that brings health and healing to those who need it. Sadly, it is often a power move or a political ploy. Conflict also drives out skilled healthcare workers who may be in fear for their lives. The bottom line- babies born in warzones predisposed to needing healthcare will not have healthcare when they need it. So what does this mean? Mothers will often give birth at home away from a skilled birth attendant. Without a midwife, nurse, doctor, or someone trained in safe deliveries- babies are at high risk of not making it in their first 28 days.
We want to see this change!
We are working in these warzones. Saving Moses currently provides innovative solutions to combat high newborn deaths in areas of concentrated conflict. These are innovative approaches that circumvent the obstacles conflict provides. In Syria, we operate our clinics out of shipping containers to provide much-needed birth attendants for mothers at each stage of their pregnancies. In Afghanistan, we educate and then mobilize community leaders with safe birth information. They can take this knowledge to the community level and prevent needless death.
But we are far from done! If you remember the stats at the beginning of this blog, 7,000 babies die every day. Most of them die from preventable causes. This stat lights a fire in us to do something. We plan to expand our BirthAid program to all areas where conflict is causing high neonatal mortality rates. We have our eyes set on countries like Yemen, Somalia, and Iraq. We will fight to help babies, no matter where they are born, have a future.
Written by: McKenzie Thompson – Saving Moses Communications & Logistics Coordinator
At Saving Moses, we have recently launched our end of year campaign, Born in Refuge, which focuses on our BirthAid program. We are helping pregnant women and babies in Iraq and Syria by providing midwives, obstetricians and pediatricians during one of the worst humanitarian crises in modern history. It’s not uncommon news that Syrians are fleeing their war-torn country for the past several years since civil war began in 2011. The humanitarian crisis has been going on for 8 years now, and it’s not over yet.
After the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria’s northern border in October this year, Turkey’s military invaded the area days later, causing hundreds of thousands of Syrians to flee their country or die trying. We aren’t here to choose sides on the political and militant decisions made regarding this issue, but instead, we are here to help those who are most vulnerable – babies and toddlers. According to the UN, only a couple of weeks after the invasion, nearly 180,000 people fled south from the border area between Turkey and Syria, while 10,000 fled to Iraq. 80,000 of those being children. That number has risen exponentially from this recent conflict alone. It isn’t counting the past 8 years that Syrians have been at war, fleeing their homes in search of safety, and hundreds of thousands of them innocently dying. Before this most recent conflict, there were already millions of Syrians in need.
As of December 1, 2019, the total number of registered Syrian refugees fleeing to neighboring countries is 5,664,202, according to Operation Portal – Refugee Situations. This number doesn’t include all the people displaced and still seeking refuge. That is over 5-million men and women forced to make the hardest decisions for their families and children of all ages forced to grow up way too soon. They are forced to leave their lives behind and seek refuge in unfamiliar places. Overall, more than 11 million Syrians are displaced, according to research by Mercy Corps.
My heart breaks when I think about the families who are just doing their best to survive. But when I think about the babies amid all this chaos, it just angers me. UNICEF reports that 2018 was the single deadliest year for children in Syria since the start of the war. That statistic rocks me to my core.
Babies are at the mercy of their environment. Women are giving birth to babies in the center of war zones. Babies are being born without any access to health care. Women are forced to travel several miles by foot just to get help with their pregnancy or sick babies.
By launching our end of year campaign: Born in Refuge, we will be funding midwives, obstetricians, and pediatricians for babies and pregnant mothers in Syria and Iraq. While millions of Syrians are fleeing their homes and traveling to neighboring countries like Iraq, it can be difficult to find medical help, especially in the middle of a war zone, where help is most needed. By providing these services, we are hoping to continue saving babies and providing the care needed to protect the world’s most vulnerable.
Thanksgiving has passed and Christmas is quickly approaching. This is a season of giving and love is the greatest gift you can give to someone. It’s a time to be a part of something bigger than yourself! This time of year tends to get busy as we are planning holiday dinners, trying to buy the best gifts, flying/driving hundreds of miles to spend this holiday with friends and family, but I urge you to slow down for a second and think about those who don’t have these same opportunities. We are the help these babies need and deserve, and you can be the love these little ones experience this giving season. Join Saving Moses through Born in Refuge, donate today, and bring joy to the lives of thousands of babies in need who are growing up in a war zone.
Written by: McKenzie Thompson – Saving Moses Communications & Logistics Coordinator At Saving Moses, we have recently launched our end of year campaign, Born in Refuge, which focuses on our BirthAid program. We are helping pregnant women and babies in Iraq and Syria by providing midwives, obstetricians and pediatricians ... Read More»