The Littlest Refugees

Mahba (changing names for their security) gave birth to a 3lb preemie, and was sent ‘home’ to the camp. A post by by Linda Roberts, Volunteer.

As I step into my role of lactation consultant in this refugee camp filled mainly with Syrian Kurds, I am keenly aware I am walking in the footsteps of giants. Those brave and selfless women that were charged with the littlest refugees before me, handed the torch (with instructions … with hope), to me. And I will do my part … to fill their shoes.

Mahba (changing names for their security) gave birth to a 3lb preemie, and was sent ‘home’ to the camp. She expressed breastmilk (as it is TRULY the difference between life and death for these little souls in these conditions) and her husband brought it daily on the bus for the baby until he, smaller than a sack of flour, joined them … in a dirty warehouse with a damp cement floor.

Precariously fragile, the baby has turned the corner and is slowly gaining weight on his mamas milk and this was with tremendous support (as the hospital sent him home with powdered formula … which can be sure death with the water situation here).

I walk into the dank warehouse, filled with row upon row of tents … with my portable scale in one hand and little bag of supplies in the other (and today with a beautiful translator and La Leche League Leader from Beirut). Kicking shoes off, we duck into the dark tent.

We sit on the floor next to mom and heavily swaddled baby. We talk, we listen. We teach and we learn. The baby is gaining, yet the father tells us the mother is weak from lack of food. We understand.

We make weekly food packs for breastfeeding and pregnant mothers … simple things, we are slimly funded and all volunteering … it changes weekly what we can buy/provide … some lemons and pomegranates, a bag of dry cous cous, a can of tuna. It is WIC in a microcosm … in a refugee camp.

We move over to another row of tents and visit a mother who seven days before gave birth to her fourth … and her first to breastfeed. As I undress the baby to assess and weigh, I am delighted by a tiny warm but fat and shiny eyed soul. I hope for her future.

I am offered sweet tea, with a warm smile, in a ripped military tent with just a mat on the floor, and a skillet to boil water. I am humbled.

You can see the grey door to the warehouse to the right. Additional tents are outside, there are always children playing with us, craving touch. But they also have moments of joy as we play … as do we.