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Raqqa maternity hospital closure 'threatens healthcare for thousands of mothers, children'

A Syrian maternity hospital in Raqqa may close after the donor agency backing it said it was pulling out, threatening tens of thousands of impoverished women and children's access to healthcare.

The Maternity, Gynaecology and Children's Hospital administration were told that the EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) organisation intends to cease its support at the end of November.

It was not immediately clear why ECHO was pulling the funding.

The closure has caused outrage in the area, with locals gathering at a vigil outside the hospital on Monday, calling for the assistance to continue, The New Arab's Arabic sister service, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, reported on Wednesday.

Demonstrators brought banners with them, bearing messages such as, "Children and women need more consideration, not neglect", "I can't afford to go to the doctor" and "It's my right to have healthcare".

 A Raqqa medical source speaking on condition of anonymity told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed: "Stopping support for the hospital deprives the community of care for 10,000 children and women, and 450 caesarean sections a month."

He said that the hospital "included an outpatient clinic for children and a ward containing 40 beds, 16 incubators, x-ray machines, a mammogram for early detection of breast cancer, an analysis laboratory, and a free pharmacy for hospital patients".

The hospital also has oxygen facilities due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"These people have nothing except this hospital to relieve their pain and save the lives of women and children who would have lost them were it not for the healthcare available to them," the source added.

Layla Al-Mazrouei, 32, pregnant with her third child, said: "The expected date of birth is at the beginning of next year, and I had hoped the birth would be in the maternity hospital, as I need a caesarean section.

"Today, I feel fear and shock as I don't have the financial capacity to go to a private hospital, and there is no other free hospital in our area."

The Maternity, Gynaecology and Children's Hospital has four gynaecologists, four paediatricians, a resident physician, nine midwives and 27 nurses – men and women. There are 135 employees in total.

The New Arab
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