Back to the newslist
17 June 2015

Syria/North Iraq: Survivors need more than bread, water and electricity

Traumatised families, overcrowded refugee camps, the proliferation of fighting – the situation in the crisis area Syria/Iraq continues to be very worrying. In April 2015, the psychologist Sybille Manneschmidt travelled to northern Iraq on behalf of medica mondiale. She appraised the local situation and drew up a draft proposal for an approach to establishing effective offers of support to survivors of sexualised violence in the region.

“In April there were 22 refugee camps in the autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq, 16 of them in Dohuk province on the border to Turkey,” explains Sybille Manneschmidt. “Here, there are currently about 750,000 displaced people and refugees living together with 1.3 million local residents. The Ministry of Health, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are working hand-in-hand to ensure essential health care and material provisions, such as bread, water and electricity, for all of these people."

Counselling and practical support for women and girls is urgently needed

Survivors of sexualised wartime violence  are also receiving support – if they find the courage to claim the help they are entitled to, says the psychologist. In refugee camps and at counselling points in Dohuk, relief organisations and specialist staff from the Ministry of Health are assisting the women and girls. Their everyday work includes listening to tales of rape, survival prostitution, torture, anxiety, sleep disturbances and stress. “What the affected women urgently need in addition to material assistance is practical support to process their experiences," says Karin Griese, Head of the Trauma Work Department at medica mondiale.

medica mondiale to train healthcare staff in trauma-sensitive counselling

The Dohuk Ministry of Health wants to expand the existing offers of assistance and to systematically train its staff in psychosocial counselling. It is initially planning two training measures in 2015 in cooperation with medica mondiale on the topics of psychosocial first aid, psychosocial counselling and the basics of self-care for doctors, nurses, care staff and psychologists. Further, in Dohuk activists from different ethnic groups and religious faiths have joined together to register the NGO “Women for a Better Life”. Together they want to set up a women’s health centre in Dohuk which will offer women a safe place to meet and share. medica mondiale will be providing advice during the establishment of the organisation and centre. On this, Karin Griese comments: “By using existing structures and pulling together with committed local partners, we are contributing to a long-term improvement in the situation of women and girls in the region.”