Mobile health teams in Iraq
Since 2014, Première Urgence Internationale’s mobile clinics move around in the Dohuk and Nineveh governorates in order to tend displaced people and host populations. The teams face up to important health challenges.
In 2014, when the populations fled the town of Sinjar in Iraq to seek refuge in Dohuk, Veronika Stastna who was carrying out an evaluation for Première Urgence Internationale remembers a critical situation: “People were worn out. The pregnant women and the elderly couldn’t move any more. The medical teams had to go to their encounter.” Following the crisis in Sinjar, Première Urgence Internationale set up health mobile clinics in order to help the displaced populations in the region of Dohuk. “Difficult access to drinking water, lack of food, precarious life conditions drove the teams to intervene in order to bring medical assistance as close to the people as possible,” she added. Mobile clinics composed with doctors, nurses, pharmacists, medical assistants as well as trainers in health and hygiene were thus trained to meet the displaced people directly in the field.
Since then, the mobile clinics continue their intervention. Veronika, who became responsible of the mobile clinic project for Première Urgence Internationale in 2015 explains that: “the displaced populations stayed in the Ninevah and Dohuk governorates. They cannot go back home. We must continue to help them. The medical services of the region are full and have extremely limited capacity. Therefore we must also help the host populations.” In refugee and displaced populations’ camps as well as outside the camps, diseases spread rapidly. Proximity and the lack of infrastructures are detrimental to personal hygiene as well as to community hygiene. Seasonal illnesses spread like wild fire. Veronika remembers a cholera outbreak in 2015. Other diseases are developing such as diabetes or blood pressure problems. “We must carry out follow-ups of the people. They face many health problems especially due to defective health practices.” Smoking, the lack of physical activities and high consumption of sugary food cause chronic diseases. The teams perform about 50 medical consultations per day. « The needs are huge, » explains Veronika, “since June 2015, we have three teams composed of six people. » The clinics move around depending on the needs and the situation. The battle line changes and areas are sometimes difficult to access: “At times we cannot access certain groups of populations encircled by the Islamic state.” As soon as the clinics can be deployed in the field, the teams perform primary health care by carrying out psychosocial activities to people often troubled by their situation and sometimes traumatized by a painful run away.
*This activity is implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union (ECHO)