The Kurdistan area of Northern Iraq has seen a significant increase in the number of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing the continual raging of the Syrian civil war and the rise in violence in Iraq due to the advance of the militant group known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Living conditions for civilians in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria have declined dramatically, with many thousands forced to flee their homes to escape the violence. The luckiest ones are able to stay with friends or relatives, or rent houses or rooms in safer areas. The less fortunate are housed in camps set up in recent months by the Kurdish authorities and international bodies. Living conditions are often difficult, there aren’t always enough tents for everyone, running water and electricity come and go, and the weather often exacerbates these problems: scorching hot in the summer, freezing temperatures and snow in the winter.
Whilst some can stay with friends and relatives or rent accommodation in the safe areas, many are not as fortunate. Those without these options are housed in camps set up by the Kurdish authorities and international bodies. The living conditions in the camps are often difficult: a shortage of tents, unreliable running water and electricity, and dramatic weather shifts with blistering heat in the summer to freezing temperatures and snow in the winter. Most of the illnesses amongst these patients, such as gastrointestinal infections, skin infections, and respiratory diseases, are the consequence of the poor hygiene and sanitary conditions in the camps.
Since 2014 EMERGENCY has operated two Health Centres to provide free primary healthcare in the Iraqi IDP and Syrian refugee camps in Arbat. Faced by growing needs and the opening of new camps, EMERGENCY decided to expand its operations in Iraq. Three new Centres were established: two in the Qoratu and Tazade Iraqi IDP camps in the Kalar area, the other one in the Ashti Iraqi IDP camp in the Arbat area. In early 2016, EMERGENCY began constructing a new Health Centre to provide coverage for the expansion of the Ashti camp. To ensure the necessary care right from the start, we set up our mobile clinic and arranged a specific area with two tents that will act as a clinic until the new Centre is ready.
The main medical conditions identified in these camps in 2015 were respiratory tract disorders (33%), gastrointestinal infections (4%) and skin infections (7%) and urinary tract infections (6%). Many of these illnesses are the result of the poor hygiene and sanitary conditions in the camps. The Health Centres have also become a focal point for patients affected by chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. In addition, the two Arbat clinics provide gynaecological and midwifery services for women along with assistance for immunisation, growth control and children’s nutrition.
In addition to providing basic healthcare, the centres in Arbat also offer gynaecological and obstetric care for women, an immunisation program, as well as a nutritional growth monitoring service for children under five years of age in conjunction with local health authorities. The Health Centre in the Arbat Syrian refugee camp is co-funded by UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Health Centre in the Arbat Iraqi IDP camp is co-funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Works are almost completed, we still have to paint the building and do the setup of the gardens” says Raul, architect. “It was a like a bet: building humane places using the standard prefabricated modules. And the compliments we’ve already received about the care we put in the buildings tell us we’re on the right way. High-quality healthcare in high-quality facilities, that’s the idea we believe in.”
In February 2015, the health centre in Khanaqin was successfully handed over to and is now managed by local health authorities. This centre was co-funded by the World Health Organisation (WHO).