Monday, 23 September 2019 10:41

More support is needed to ensure accessible quality health services for a quarter of a million Syrian refugees in Iraq

22 September 2019 – The provision of health services for approximately 250 000 Syrian refugees in Iraq remains a major challenge for the local health authorities, the World Health Organization (WHO), and humanitarian responders in Iraq.

The shortage of resources, which resulted from the internal displacement crisis in 2014, coupled by conflict in many parts of the country, have burdened the already stretched health system and affected efforts to ensure availability of an accessible health package in 8 Syrian refugee camps and hosting communities in governorates of the northern Kurdistan Region of Iraq, mainly Erbil and Duhok.

In September 2018, WHO resumed a wide-scale health support programme covering health facilities in Syrian refugee camps in Iraq. The programme, which was funded by the US Department of States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, succeeded in achieving record-time gains.

Nine primary health care centres in refugee camps in Erbil and Duhok were furnished and equipped with various medical devices and laboratory equipment to strengthen essential health services at primary health care level.

Meanwhile, the 3 secondary and tertiary health care facilities of Reparin Paediatric Hospital in Erbil, Shiar Hospital in Sulaymaniyah, and Heevi Paediatric Teaching Hospital in Duhok were supported through the provision of furniture and various medical devices and life-saving equipment in service of the internally displaced population, Syrian refugees, and hosting community in governorates of the northern Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Darashakran refugee camp, about 50 kilometres to the north of Erbil, accommodates over 13 000 Syrian refugees, evacuated from different conflict areas in Syria.

“The clinic in Darashakran refugee camp resumed receiving between 150 to 160 patients a day, thanks to the significant supply of medicines and medical technologies provided by WHO,” said Ms Khunaw Sarok, Darashakran health clinic manager.

“Two years ago, we struggled with an acute shortage of medicine, medical supplies, and equipment. We gratefully acknowledge the support of WHO and US Department of States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration for enabling us to sufficiently respond to health needs in the camp again”.

Hiba Yousif, a 23 year-old Syrian refugee fled the Syrian unrest to Iraq in 2013. She is a mother of 5 children, three of whom were born in Darashakran camp; the last was only a few weeks old when we met with her at the camp clinic in June this year.

“The health services in the camp were poor and limited to the essentials in the past 2 years,” Hiba said. “ But we recently touched a significant improvement in the quality and quantity of health care delivery in the camp, including the referral services which saved me from a premature delivery less than a month ago.”

“Today, I brought my newborn baby (Yahya) to the paediatrician to check his eyes; they are irritated and tear a lot,” she explained.

Looking at her baby with a beautiful smile, Hiba expressed her thanks and appreciation to the health facility management and to WHO for providing a comprehensive package of health services and making emergency referrals possible.

At the waiting area, we also met with Nahid Hassan, a 35-year-old woman who came complaining of severe abdominal pain. She was recommended to have an ultrasound by the clinic doctor to identify the problem. “Fortunately, the centre has the device but is still waiting for a doctor to operate it,” she explained. ” Having a sonar in the private sector is too costly, so thanks to WHO, donors and the camp management for trying to make this service available to us for free.”

The support covered other areas like sexual-based violence, mental health, and psychosocial support services. As of July this year, WHO trained more than 250 health care providers from different governorates on managing cases of women subjected to intimate partner sexual violence in Syrian refugee camps and hosting community.

In addition, more than 50 health practitioners were also trained on the use of Mental Health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) Intervention Guide to enhance and facilitate mental health service delivery in target governorates where displaced population and Syrian refugees are accommodated.

Furthermore, WHO covered all Syrian refugee camps by the Early Warning Alert Response Network (EWARN) and trained more than 128 staff in reporting sites in Erbil and Dahuk on the proper use of EWARN standardized reporting and disease definition.

“The demand is still immense and we have to address other health issues like the need for assistive technologies for those suffering physical disabilities. We do call upon local authorities, donors, and humanitarian partners to provide more support to minimize the health care cost for this vulnerable community,” the camp clinic manager concluded.

In 2018, WHO received a generous contribution of US$ 2.5 million from the US Department of States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to increase the health security and resilience of Syrian refugees living in Iraq. The grant contributed to providing comprehensive primary health care, referral services, and rehabilitation care for the disabled and mentally ill patients in refugee camps and hosting communities in Erbil, Dahuk and Sulaymaniyah governorates.

The contribution also covered the procurement and distribution of essential medicines, and medical supplies and equipment to selected health facilities serving the refugees in target governorates.

WHO would like to express its gratitude to the US Department of States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration for their generous support which has enabled WHO and partners to resume quality health care delivery and ambulatory services to all Syrian refugees in Iraq.

For more information, please contact:

Ajyal Sultany
WHO Communications Officer
(+964) 7740 892 878
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Pauline Ajello
WHO Communications Officer
(+964) 7729 877 288, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Holly Wilkerson
Program Officer – Iraq, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Additional Info

  • Agency: WHO

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