Cartoonist Ella Baron travelled to Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon, to hear the stories of women at Mdecins Sans Frontires womens health clinic
Located on one square kilometre in central Beirut, Shatila is home to an estimated 14,000 people, although the true number may be more than twice that. The camp is not policed by the Lebanese authorities and most residents have restriction access to housing, employment, energy and water. Established in 1949 to accommodate Palestinian refugees, Shatila now has a population that is more than half Syrian.
Syrian refugees attempting mental health services from Medecins Sans Frontieres( MSF) in Shatila are suffering less from the acute trauma of war than from switchings in household dynamics and relationships caused by their displacement.
MSF has encountered an increase of Syrian women who have experienced domestic and sexual violence. Supported by counsellors, they told their tales, bearing witness to the psychological and emotional challenges that women in their community face and overcome. We hear first from a midwife, and then from several of the women and their counsellors.
‘I want to look like a dame !’
” Is it a son or a girl ?’ This is the first question at every ultrasound. If a dame is expecting a girl it may cause tension with her family, so we always say we don’t know. I tell her our priority is the health of the baby; I prove her its body, point out the feet, hand, face; I let her listen to its heart. I still feel joy each time I deliver a newborn, but it can be very hard. Once, I saw a Syrian refugee aged 12 pregnant with her second baby. It is normal for them to become moms very young. Here is D , now 16, married in Syria at 14; this is her first newborn, a girl. When you draw me, don’t draw me in these baggy trousers. I want to look like a lady! ( MSF midwife )