Responding to health needs of women, children and adolescents within Syria during conflict: intervention coverage, challenges and adaptations

Chaza Akik, Aline Semaan, Linda Shaker-Berbari, Zeina Jamaluddine, Ghada E. Saad, Katherine Lopes, Joanne Constantin, Abdulkarim Ekzayez, Neha S. Singh, Karl Blanchet, Jocelyn DeJong, Hala Ghattas

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-article

Abstract

Background Women and children suffer disproportionately in armed-conflicts. Since 2011, the protracted Syrian crisis has fragmented the pre-existing healthcare system. Despite the massive health needs of women and children, the delivery of key reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health and nutrition (RMNCAH&N) interventions, and its underlying factors are not well-understood in Syria. Our objective was to document intervention coverage indicators and their implementation challenges inside Syria during conflict. Methods We conducted 1) a desk review to extract RMNCAH&N intervention coverage indicators inside Syria during the conflict; and 2) qualitative interviews with decision makers and health program implementers to explore reasons behind provision/non-provision of RMNCAH&N interventions, and the rationale informing decisions, priorities, collaborations and implementation. We attempt to validate findings by triangulating data from both sources. Results Key findings showed that humanitarian organisations operating in Syria adopted a complex multi-hub structure, and some resorted to remote management to improve accessibility to certain geographic areas. The emergency response prioritised trauma care and infectious disease control. Yet, with time, humanitarian organisations successfully advocated for prioritising maternal and child health and nutrition interventions given evident needs. The volatile security context had implications on populations’ healthcare seeking behaviors, such as women reportedly preferring home births, or requesting Caesarean-sections to reduce insecurity risks. Additional findings were glaring data gaps and geographic variations in the availability of data on RMNCAH&N indicators. Adaptations of the humanitarian response included task-shifting to overcome shortage in skilled healthcare workers following their exodus, outreach activities to enhance access to RMNCAH&N services, and operating in ‘underground’ facilities to avoid risk of attacks. Conclusion The case of Syria provides a unique perspective on creative ways of managing the humanitarian response and delivering RMNCAH&N interventions, mainly in the multi-hub structure and use of remote management, despite encountered challenges. The scarcity of RMNCAH&N data is a tremendous challenge for both researchers and implementing agencies, as it limits accountability and monitoring, thus hindering the evaluation of delivered interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number37
JournalConflict and Health
Volume14
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)37
Number of pages19
ISSN1752-1505
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Reproductive health
  • Maternal health
  • Child health
  • Nutrition
  • Health interventions
  • Coverage
  • Syria
  • Armed conflict
  • Humanitarian crises

Cite this