Since 2017 and the declared end of military operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the situation in Iraq remains volatile and of humanitarian concern. Approximately 1.5 million people remain internally displaced, 70% of whom are in protracted displacement (for more than three years).
On the security front, the year 2020 was marked by the death of General Soleimani, commander of the Al-Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, who was killed in Baghdad in a targeted drone strike by the US. This death exacerbated tensions with the US in particular, but also with other actors in the region. The year was also characterized by waves of protests against the current government in many cities across the country. In addition, Turkey’s military offensive against Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syria led to a massive influx of Syrian refugees. Finally, the year was also shaped by the arrival of COVID-19, detected for the first time on Iraqi territory on 24 February 2020.
The most vulnerable people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance remain those affected by the 2014-2017 conflict against the ISIL, in particular the displaced people. They have lost all or part of their livelihoods, and their lives have been exposed to considerable physical and psychological risks.
Description of the mission
Première Urgence Internationale intervenes in Iraq since 1983 (under the name Aide Médicale Internationale) and 1997 (under the name Première Urgence).
The current mission assists vulnerable refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities to improve their living conditions and build resilience by ensuring access to basic services.
The objective of Première Urgence Internationale in Iraq is to provide a humanitarian response to the needs arising from the population movements by strengthening the existing health system and providing psychological and psychosocial support to vulnerable people, while increasing their access to shelter, drinking water, hygiene and sanitation. Given the scale of the crisis and the needs observed, the areas of intervention of Première Urgence Internationale teams are multiple, and are incorporated as much as possible into an integrated approach, with health remaining at the heart of our intervention. The integrated approach is an innovative operational approach developed and implemented by Première Urgence Internationale. This method aims to identify and understand all the needs of people affected by a crisis. It aims to better target priority actions to stabilize and then improve the situation of the most vulnerable groups, and to ensure the coordination of all actors on the ground. It allows all the dimensions of a problem to be taken into account in order to propose a combination of efficient and effective solutions that will have a strong and lasting impact on the population.
Premiere Urgence Internationale in action
In 2020, Première Urgence Internationale provided a wide range of primary and mental health care. This care took the form of medical consultations (including for acute and chronic pathologies), basic emergency treatment, referrals for specialized care, laboratory tests and nursing services. For mental health, care services were provided through individual and group consultations, as well as capacity building and awareness raising on mental health and psychosocial support.
In order to strengthen local capacities to provide long-term services, Première Urgence Internationale has supported 15 health infrastructures (hospitals, primary health care centers) inside and outside the camps, mainly in the governorates of Anbar, Dohuk and Ninewa. The activities carried out range from the rehabilitation of infrastructures to capacity building of medical staff and health education training for community health workers.
In addition, Première Urgence Internationale has implemented an integrated approach in areas heavily affected by the conflict by adding the rehabilitation of infrastructure (a water treatment plant, seven schools and two health centers) to its formative healthcare supervision. In 2020, Première Urgence Internationale provided more than 100 000 health and mental health consultations, but also enabled 92 300 people to attend community awareness training.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of sanitary measures making access to the population more difficult, all the health centers supported by Première Urgence Internationale have managed to keep their doors open. Some activities had to be modified in order to respond to health constraints. Thus, mental health consultations were able to take place at a distance and protective equipment was provided to the health centers supported by the NGO.
Pictures of Livia Saavedra
Testimonies from the field: the benefits of Mental Health support in an Iraqi settlement
Première Urgence Internationale’s ECHO-funded Health and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) teams have been providing care services since the beginning of April 2020. In one of these settlements, Kilo 7, three people who benefited from these services tell us about their stories.
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…