Iraq: enabling displaced people in Bersiveh camp to access health care
Since 1st October 2020, Première Urgence Internationale has been working in the Bersiveh camp, located in the north of the country. The NGO manages the only health centre there and offers primary health services as well as mental health and psychosocial support.
This camp was established in November 2014 for internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had fled the fighting zones. It is located near Bersiveh village in Zakho district (Dohuk governorate).
In January 2021, the population stood at 6,675, of which 3,779 were women and 2,896 men. These displaced populations come mainly from Sinjar (Ninewa governorate).
The Yezidis are an ethno-religious minority long marginalised and discriminated against under Saddam Hussein. Then harshly persecuted during the ISIS invasion until 2017. It is estimated that around 6,000 Yezidi women and children were abducted by ISIS in 2014 and subjected to extreme physical and sexual violence.
Although ISIS is now gone, the survivors have not been able to return to their former lives. Their villages and houses were either destroyed or access to them became too risky.
Many of them live in camps or informal settlements and have to deal with the traumatic experiences (physical and psychological) they endured during their captivity.
An essential health centre
The services offered by Première Urgence Internationale aim to provide quality health services for all. The teams focus in particular on children under 5 years of age, along with pregnant and breastfeeding women through pre- and post-natal consultations.
The NGO also provides non-medical equipment and ensures the maintenance of the health centre and its accessibility for people with special needs.
73% of people come for general consultations, 41% for non-communicable diseases and 12% of them come for reproductive health.
Health care needs for communicable diseases are also high – representing 56% of consultations – due to the unhygienic living conditions in the camp, causing the propagation of communicable diseases such as diarrhoea.
“When the case is too serious or requires the intervention of a specialist, we refer the patient to a secondary health centre (hospital), or to other specialised actors: for example, for victims of gender-based violence,” explains Laure Jegard, Grants Officer for the Iraq programme.
The health centre is open six days a week, from 8 am to 2 pm, after which it is dedicated to emergencies.
“We also reach to community health workers who raise awareness among the population that comes to the health centre,” explains the Grants Officer, adding: “They also go around the camp, meeting families directly, from tent to tent. The main topics are: hygiene, COVID-19, reproductive health, chronic diseases and mental health. ”
Half of the people supported by Première Urgence Internationale through this health centre are women, 42% of which are between 15 and 49 years old.
Expected mental health consultations
At the beginning of the year, there were several suicide attempts in Bersiveh camp, particularly among teenagers.
Therefore, in addition to the mental health awareness sessions organised in the waiting room of the health centre, a psychologist and psychosocial workers take care of people in need of psychological support through individual and family interviews. Referrals to specialised health centres are also implemented when the person’s situation requires it.
In addition to the difficult living conditions, the promiscuity and the trauma of having to flee one’s home, tragedies occur in the camp. On 17th February 2021, a father and his two children died in a fire, probably due to a short circuit. Five other people were injured, some with severe burns.
Through Florent Vergnes’ photographs, discover the actions carried out by Première Urgence Internationale in Bersiveh camp:
“We also do a lot of capacity building for government health workers, to strengthen the Iraqi health system beyond the sole action of Première Urgence Internationale. From April, we will support an isolation and quarantine zone for suspected and/or positive cases of COVID-19,” explains Laure Jegard.
This new project will enable the identification of cases, the provision of care, the transfer of severe cases to a secondary health centre and psychological support for the sick as well as psychosocial support for their families.
According to a February 2021 report published by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA): “One year on from the first incidence of COVID-19 in Iraq, the country has entered another period of lockdowns and movement restrictions aimed at containing the spread of the virus. Those who are already vulnerable— including IDPs, refugees, and returnees—are likely to continue to be negatively impacted.”
According to OCHA, the 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) for Iraq is 4.1 million people in need.
“While the number of people in need remained similar to the previous year, the severity of those needs increased, largely due to the impact of COVID-19 on top of an existing humanitarian crisis, leading to a 35 per cent increase in the number of people in acute need. As outlined in the HNO, the main drivers of this increase were the impact of COVID-19 and the partially related economic crisis, leading to large-scale loss of livelihoods”, the report notes.
Première Urgence Internationale is present in Iraq (first under the name Aide Médicale Internationale) since 1983.
The mission brings help to vulnerable refugees, displaced persons as well as host communities, in order to improve their living conditions and reinforce their resilience, enabling them to regain dignity and autonomy.
By making a donation to Première Urgence Internationale, you allow the teams to continue their actions in the field while implementing new projects to help vulnerable displaced people.
Services related to the Bersiveh camp health centre are funded through support from the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), while support for the isolation and quarantine area is funded by the Iraq Humanitarian Fund (IHF).
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