Local philanthropist plans Iraqi healthcare unit for women

Amidst unrest in the Middle East, Barbara Barrington Jones, a local Utah philanthropist, plans to make a difference in the lives of women in Iraq, which reported over 1 million widows in 2015, according to The Loomba Foundation. Jones was on a trip to London in 2015 when she met with Baroness Emma Nicholson, who is a lifetime member of the British Parliament’s House of Lords. 

“They discussed current struggles of women in Iraq, specifically expectant mothers who had no access to healthcare. Many women are left widowed, pregnant and with no place to deliver their child. Children end up being born in the streets, resulting in an incredibly high infant and mother mortality rate,” according to the Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation (BBJ Family Foundation). 

After a summer of research and planning, Jones created the Women to Women project, which will result in the Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation Maternity and Mother Child Health Care Unit. The facility will be built in Basra, located in the southeastern corner of Iraq about 330 miles from Baghdad. Basra is one of the largest cities in Iraq and the facility will be located in one of the poorest sections. 

Due to the war on ISIS, Basra has been plagued with high rates of poverty and crime, according to the BBJ Family Foundation. Jones plans to match 100 percent of every donation made to the project in an effort to reach the goal of raising $250,000 to build the facility. “The building will provide birthing beds and supplies for six women at once with separate pre and post-maternal facilities," according to the BBJ Family Foundation. 

"Through the money donated by the BBJ Family Foundation as well as help from the AMAR (Assisting March Arabs and Refugees) foundation, the hope is that mortality rates will be impacted in Basra and the surrounding areas — especially for those in poverty and widowed. The goal for this facility is for mothers in Basra to have the same chances of a safe birth as mothers in the U.S. and the UK.” 

Women from Basra and the surrounding area will receive treatment and services at the facility free of charge by local professionals. “Trained and qualified Iraqi medical professionals will be in charge of the ward from day one. That is the AMAR model, and we would not settle for less. It will be under the management of AMAR’s extremely experienced medical team,” Baroness Nicholson said. The Woman to Woman project has raised almost a quarter of the overall goal as of April 2016. 

The name of every person who donates will be put on a plaque in the entrance of the facility. “We have raised about $45,000 at this point, thanks to many of Barbara’s friends and several organizations in the Salt Lake Valley such as Utah Valley University Women’s Success Center, Distinguished Young Women Program of Utah Valley, and Chipotle Restaurant in American Fork,” according to the BBJ Family Foundation. 

Plans are in progress for future partnerships with other organizations as well as events to promote the project. “I have never asked for financial help on any project, but if we can raise the $250,000 to build this incredible facility, I know women here will be blessed by helping these struggling women in Iraq. I know that as we work together we can help many women and children live a safe and healthy life,” Jones said in a statement on the BBJ Family Foundation website. 

By Ainsley Layland

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