10 July 2013
When the bombings and shootings started in Sawsan and Rafat’s neighbourhood near Damascus in Syria, they fled with their family in search of safety across the border.
Sawsan was heavily pregnant when she arrived in northern Iraq with her husband and their three young children. ‘I was very tired on the journey,’ she says.
‘It was very difficult. I was dizzy. At times I fainted and they put water on me. The weather was very cold. Some days we didn’t eat at all.’
Days after their arrival in Arbat - a small, informal refugee camp on the outskirts of Sulaimaniya, northern Iraq - Sawsan gave birth to their fourth child.
Health and hygiene
Many pregnant women, or mothers with infants and children, have sought sanctuary in this camp. The nearest hospital is a 30-minute drive away, so ensuring that people can stay healthy is crucial.
Our partner, REACH (Rehabilitation, Education and Community Health), is working in informal refugee settlements, including Arbat. REACH provides vital support such as hygiene kits to some 1,500 refugee families, helping people like Sawsan to stay healthy.
‘‘When we were in Syria, the children could not go out. On some days you could not even get food.’
Sawsan and Rafat now lead a very different life to the one they used to have in Syria before the violence began.
Rafat explains: ‘When we were in Syria we had a house and a car – a Mazda. I was buying and selling livestock and I could buy the things they [the children] needed. They were happy and we had everything.’
But at least here, as Sawsan acknowledges, the children are safe: ‘The children are OK now. Here we tell them that it is safe.
'When we were there, they could not go out. On some days you could not even get food. The children were kept inside.
'We are grateful that we are here. There was a lot of violence in Syria and we are safe here.’
Please donate to the Syria Crisis Appeal today to help our partners to continue to support families like Sawsan’s.