There are an estimated 65 000 people in need in Sheikh Maqsoud, the majority of them women, children and elderly persons. This number is expected to increase as more displaced families return to the area. An assessment found significant healthcare needs, including severely limited reproductive health services.
Julien Buha Collette, a technical assistant with EU Humanitarian Aid in Syria who recently visited Aleppo, said that the humanitarian needs in the area are tremendous.
“The population of Sheikh Maqsoud has been cut off from medical care for years,” he said. “Our support is expected to ensure the provision of basic services on a regular basis to those most in need.”
Buha Collette said that health services—especially targeting women and children—remains the EU’s main priority in the area.
“This first intervention supported by the EU should pave the way for a regular delivery of services by humanitarian partners through mobile units in Aleppo. But all efforts must be made to allow access to humanitarian workers wherever the needs are.”
Only one health facility is operational in Sheikh Maqsoud, serving an estimated 50 patients per day. This is not sufficient to meet local needs, where about 3 000 women are estimated to be pregnant.
“Conflict typically puts these women and their babies at risk. Physical hardship and emotional trauma often complicate delivery,” said Massimo Diana, UNFPA’s Representative in Syria. “Health services are deteriorated after the seven years of crisis in Syria, in addition to the limited supplies and high patient loads.”
The existing health facility is poorly equipped, with no capacity to perform Caesarean section operations or other major surgeries. There is no ambulance available to transfer critical cases to hospitals outside Sheikh Maqsoud.
Humanitarian responders also noted that most roads are in disrepair and choked with mud, limiting access. The area also lacks an operating electrical system, forcing the community to rely on generators and expensive fuel, when available.
Mobile teams reach women
“We at UNFPA in Syria are working to deploy emergency supplies and equipment to make childbirth safer and to support medical interventions,” Diana said.
On 30 December 2017, UNFPA’s mobile reproductive team provided services to over 80 women, reaching those in need of antenatal care, family planning services, postpartum care, and other essential health assistance. Many women had been without care for years.
“It was a long day,” said Dr. Joud, head of one of the mobile teams. “Poor women,” she added, “how much help they need.”
In addition to lacking quality reproductive health care, humanitarian workers observed a large number of people living with disabilities, including wheelchair users, as well as families in desperate need of warm clothing for the winter.
UNFPA workers also spoke with local families about challenges to maintaining their children’s education. Despite the shortage of school supplies, parents are determined to keep their children in school. “I’ll make sure that my daughter will finish her education,” one man told UNFPA.
UNFPA and its partner, Syrian Arab Red Crescent, also distributed 1 200 dignity kits, which contain hygiene supplies such as soap, sanitary napkins, and underwear.