Ed note. As of May 2017, more and 7,400 babies have been delivered in the maternity ward of a UN-run clinic in Zataari refugee camp without a single maternal death. On March 31, 2017, the U.S. announced it would stop funding all work of the UN agency that runs this ward, falsely alleging that the agency, UNFPA, supports China’s one child policy, forced sterilization and abortion.  

Rachel Moynihan is an American citizen who works for UNFPA, the UN Population Fund. With U.S. funding, UNFPA established the only maternity ward to serve the 80,000 residents of the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan– the largest single camp serving Syrian refugees. In March 2016, Moynihan visited Zaatari. The post below represents a composite of firsthand accounts of of the many new moms she met during her visit.

Imagine you’re young, newly married. You’re living in a city and pursuing a career while political unrest slowly bubbles in your country.

But you’re not political; this isn’t your fight. Your focus is on your family, which you have just learned will grow by one in the coming year.

Political unrest grows to a boil, igniting an armed conflict. Over time, distant bombings grow closer and eventually reach your town, then your neighborhood. Your neighbor’s child is killed when a shell strikes the home next door.

Five months pregnant, the primal drive to preserve your own life and the life of your child overcomes the desire to remain close to everything you know. You leave your home, your neighbors, your job and your community.

Nine days on foot eventually get you to Zaatari Refugee Camp, just over the border from Syria in Jordan.

Dazed and nauseauted, you settle into your caravan. It’s not home and never will be. But until you can return, this will have to serve as a temporary refuge from the bombing, gas attacks and besiegement back home.

Your first priority is your baby. Leaving home also meant leaving your doctor. You learn about a women’s center in the camp that provides prenatal care and safe childbirth services.

You find the women’s center. It’s run by UNFPA, the UN Population Fund. UNFPA’s orange logo, along with logos of other UN agencies, NGOs and national flags on the walls identify those who collaborated to build this space.

Dozens of other women sit in the shaded, open-air waiting area of the women’s center. Some are heavy with pregnancy and ready to deliver. Others are holding newborns, waiting for neonatal checkups and vaccines. You see a few women enter another inconspicuous building, which you learn offers counseling for survivors of violence at the hands of their partners. The stress of camp life impacts couples in different ways. You pray your young marriage will survive.

Four months later, it’s time to deliver your first child. You’re a familiar face to UNFPA staff at the women’s center. They take you in, ensure all is normal, and guide you through labor. You never dreamed you would have to bring new life to the world in a refugee camp. Months earlier your life looked so different.

The first cry of your newborn son unleashes a torrent of emotions never previously felt. Your dreams for him are the same as any other parent: to be happy, healthy, educated, and contribute to society. You pray he will help rebuild Syria.

Exhausted, you lay him down for the first time in the bassinet next to your bed. The bassinet, like the walls of the women’s center, features UNFPA’s logo. Next to it, a tiny flag on the side of the bassinet comes into focus just inches from his head. It is red, white and blue. The sight of the American flag is an image you will never forget. You say a word of thanks to strangers half a world away who helped bring your son into the world.

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