AMMAN, Jordan — Sara al-Matoura watched through a window as her one-year-old daughter’s chest heaved up and down under a tangle of medical wires.
The 22-year-old mother from the Syrian city of Homs hadn’t eaten for a day and stayed up all night at a hospital in the Jordanian capital, Amman, holding her daughter, imagining the scalpel cutting her baby’s chest open soon.
Al-Matoura fled the Syrian war for Jordan in 2012, where she met Alaa Zatima, 34, another refugee from Daraa. They married and had a son, Omar, now 4 years old and waiting at home.
Al-Matoura was only four months pregnant with her second child when she found out the baby had a congenital heart defect known as tricuspid atresia, which has a mortality rate of 90 per cent before age 10.
Jordanian doctors encouraged her to abort the fetus. Al-Matoura refused. “She is my gift from God,” she said. She named her daughter Eman — “faith” in Arabic.
Last week, Eman received life-saving open heart surgery, one of eight cardiac operations that Italian pediatric surgeons from the Vatican’s Bambino Gesu Hospital came to perform for free in Jordan.
She’s a lucky exception among Syrian refugees with severe medical conditions.
Dozens of others with cancer, heart defects and other complex conditions go untreated each month because of funding constraints, according to U.N. officials. The more expensive the treatment, the more likely their funding requests will be turned down.
Even primary care and basic services such as child delivery are increasingly unaffordable for refugees in regional host countries such as Jordan and Lebanon.
Some 5.5 million Syrians have fled their homeland since 2011, most settling in the region. Jordan currently hosts more than 650,000 Syrians registered by the U.N. refugee agency, though the government estimates the number of Syrians in the country is twice as high.
Seven years into …read more
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