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Twins born in Turkey, returned to Syrian border

posted Sep 9, 2012, 6:47 AM by Syrian Transition   [ updated Sep 9, 2012, 6:47 AM ]
09 Sept 2012 (Gulf News) Bab Al Salameh, Syria: Pregnant with twins, Fatima Abdullah survived shelling, hid under relatives’ beds and went without food during a treacherous weeks-long trip across the Syrian border.

Safely in a Turkish hospital, she gave birth to a healthy boy and a girl. But after just two nights, she was sent right back, the victim of the overwhelmed country’s ban of new refugee arrivals until more camps can be built.

Fatima, 29, brushed away the flies in a cramped, 10-foot concrete shed near the border crossing, where at least 5,000 other refugees waited to cross into a safer haven from Syria’s 18 months of violence. She held her four-day-old son son, Ahmad, as he furiously sucked away on his pacifier, while her daughter Bayan slept, eyes tightly closed, in pink and blue fuzzy blankets.

“I want a clean house,” she said softly, gesturing at the mud-tracked concrete floor. “Just a safe home for them, it’s just not clean here.”

Her plight is part of the poignant ordeal of at least 5,000 refugees stranded with little food and unsanitary conditions at the Bab Al Salameh crossing, camped in immense sheds where trucks carrying cargo were once inspected. Ailing refugees wait outside, some stretched out on cots, to be treated by doctors for diabetes and food poisoning. A baby whose family fled the city of Aleppo weeks ago sleeps in a car seat, surrounded by mosquito netting.

The refugees are stranded here on the border because of Turkey’s decision two weeks ago to ban new arrivals into the country until it can construct new refugee camps. The country has already taken in some 80,000 Syrians and will let women in like Abdullah, but only to give birth.

“We send delivery cases to Turkey, but the problem is that after they give birth, they are sent back on the same day or the next,” said Dr. Necmi, a Turkish doctor working at a small clinic on the border run by a Turkish aid organisation that also provides cooked meals to the refugees. He declined to give his surname.
“There is no healthy place here for these women to be comfortable,” he said.

The United Nations estimates that there 1.2 million people displaced inside of Syria — half of them children — and nowhere is that more apparent than in Bab Al Salameh which seems overrun by children of all ages, some even as young as the four-day-old twins.

Abdullah and her twins are actually more comfortable than most in their small room. Around them, thousands of others sleep in the open, spreading plastic mats on the concrete at the mercy of insects and the elements, their few possessions spread around them.

“A lot of the children have skin infections, from flies, mosquitoes and other insects,” added the doctor. “They scratch the bites and the skin becomes inflamed. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

He added that without fresh water and clean conditions, most of the children suffer from diarrhoea. Refugees blamed the donated food and milk that is spoiled for making people sick.

Every few hours, a tractor pulls up to the huge sheds towing a water tank” families rush to fill their bottles and cans for drinking and washing.

Bathroom facilities are also limited and crowded and many of the men say they go into the nearby fields to relieve themselves, which has only increased the swarms of flies across the camp.

Fears that the twins won’t have any breast milk to drink have sent Fatima’s husband out scouring the countryside for baby formula, he said.

“It was very difficult, the pregnancy was difficult, the delivery, everything was difficult,” recalled Abdullah in a soft voice.

Their flight began in mid-July, the first day of Ramadan, when heavy fighting came to their Aleppo neighbourhood of Myasar.

Surrounded by shelling, no bread and closed shops, they eventually made it to the town of Marea, about 40km away, where they stayed with relatives.

“We hid in their homes, sometimes under the bed, out of fear of the planes,” she said. Fatima kept up her daylong fast throughout Ramadan, despite her pregnancy. When the bombings of the villages started after Ramadan, the family decided to make for the border and join the thousands waiting to get across.

Fatima said she wants to be anywhere else but on the wrong side of the border.

But in Turkey, she fears, “we would have to pay a lot of money and we don’t have any money”.