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Health volunteers help mothers and their newborn babies in Kawergosk refugee camp, Iraq

Souad Sulaiman, herself a Syrian refugee, volunteers for a UNICEF programme helping newborn babies in Kawergosk refugee camp, Iraq.  Download this video


By Chris Niles

Volunteer health workers like Souad Sulaiman are looking in on tiny residents of Kawergosk refugee camp – going door to door to check on newborn babies and talk to mothers about infant care.

ERBIL, Iraq, 18 October 2013 – Berevan Yusaf Tamo, a Syrian refugee, is far from home. About a month ago, she crossed the Iraqi border, heavily pregnant.

A couple of weeks later, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Haji.

Souad Sulaiman is also a refugee. She lives in Kawergosk refugee camp in northern Iraq. Back home she was a nurse, but her training has been interrupted by the conflict.

© UNICEF Iraq/2013/Niles
Berevan Yusaf Tamo with newborn Haji. A heavily pregnant Berevan crossed the border into Iraq in late August and has since been living in Kawergosk camp. She and Haji were visited by Souad, who is registering newborns and checking their health.

However, this morning Souad is once again wearing a white coat and carrying a box of medical supplies.

It’s her first day on the job as a medical volunteer, and her job is to find the newborn babies in the camp. She goes door to door, knocking on tents, talking to mothers.

It doesn’t take her long to find Berevan and Haji.

Berevan was taken to hospital in Erbil for the delivery and is now back in the camp. Her baby, who has a shock of dark hair, is swaddled and resting in a baby car seat.

Berevan’s pride and joy in her new child is obvious.

Souad, who has been trained by UNICEF to recognize the danger signs for newborns, checks the baby and advises the mother on the essential elements of newborn care, including the importance of exclusive breastfeeding.

© UNICEF Iraq/2013/Niles
Berevan, Haji and family. Souad will visit Berevan and Haji several more times in the coming few weeks to check in on Haji and advise Berevan on infant care.

“She was breastfeeding the infant, but almost all the mothers are doing it the wrong way, so I showed her the right way,” Souad said.

For the shy young mother, relieved at a safe delivery in very uncertain times, Souad’s presence is a comfort.

“The nurse’s visit was a good thing, everything’s all right,” she says.

Souad will visit Berevan and Haji several more times in the coming few weeks.

She’s at the vanguard of a UNICEF programme that aims to ensure that the tragedy facing so many Syrian families is not compounded by lack of knowledge about infant health.

The programme creates a register of newborn babies, who are visited six times in a baby’s first 28 days. It began in Kawergosk, but UNICEF aims to extend it to all of the refugee camps in the region.

For Souad, the programme represents a small step to normalcy for herself, as well as the chance to help her fellow Syrians.

“I’m needed here because of the living conditions in the camp. The weather is harsh, and the environment is dusty. So, my work is very important for the children. Sometimes the child is ill, and the parents don’t know what to do. But we know, and we can help,” she said.



UNICEF Photography: Syrian crisis

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