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Battle for Mosul

How the Jiyan Foundation is helping traumatized victims

Copyright Jiyan Foundation for Human Rights

Bloodshed and Despair: Fleeing the Battle for Mosul

In 2014, when the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) attacked Sinjar, the Nineveh plains and the city of Mosul, about one million people were displaced within few weeks. The situation has become more severe since October 2016, when the Iraqi army, Peshmerga forces, allied militias and the international coalition launched an operation to retake Mosul. In fact, the number of security incidents has quadrupled, causing fear among civilians, large-scale destruction and displacement, and leaving people with nothing to go back to.

According to the UNHCR, fighting in Mosul has displaced more than 340,000 people. The recent attempt to liberate western Mosul has caused this number to become even greater as an average 5,000 persons arrive in the nearby camps every day. The camp capacities already reach their limits and only 40% of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) find shelter in camps at all. About 30% are categorized as living in private apartments or households, and 20% live in “critical shelter arrangements”, such as informal settlements, unfinished buildings, and schools.

The Nineveh Governorate, a multiethnic and religiously diverse province known for its ancient sites and cultural history, today hosts the largest number of displaced persons. The total number of people in need, including IDPs, residents in conflict zones and the host community, draws near 3.3 million. While the needs are diverse, there is a high demand for medical and mental health support.

For this reason, the Jiyan Foundation is about to open a new rehabilitation center for traumatized individuals and distressed families in Alqosh, an Assyrian town to the north of Mosul. The center will receive financial backing from The Johanniter and the Development Cooperation Instrument of the European Union.

Impressions from Hasansham and Debaga Camp

As of late, the Jiyan Foundation has been working in two camps for displaced persons from Mosul and its surroundings. The Hasansham camp is considered a high-risk camp located in Nineveh province, around 30 kilometers from Mosul. In March 2017, more than 8,700 people were living in Hasansham. The Debaga camp hosts more than 13,000 people in the south of Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan-Iraq. Twice a week – in consultation with other organizations – a mobile team consisting of a medical doctor, a pharmacist, and one to two psychotherapists reach out to each of these two camps. Survivors of violence and traumatic experiences receive free-of-charge medical care and psychological treatment. In Hasansham, the Jiyan Foundation could already admit more than 1,000 clients with physical and psychological problems.

However, winning a patient’s trust and deconstructing the stigma around psychotherapy is not an easy task: “Psychotherapy is not part of the culture here. It is considered a shame to be in need of psychological support. People want easier solutions like a pill. They are disappointed when they realize that therapy means working on themselves,” says Yousif, one of our psychotherapists. Nonetheless, the demand for help is overwhelming. In each camp, the Jiyan Foundation sees up to 70 medical and six to eight psychological clients per day. Patients are admitted regardless of their age, gender, nationality, or religious affiliation.

Case Study: Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress after Flight from Mosul

Ahmed is 29 years old and currently living in Hasansham camp with his mother and one of his brothers. Last year, he fled the ISIS occupation of his hometown Mosul. On the run, the family was separated: Ahmed’s father and one of his brothers did not make it out of Mosul. Ahmed and his younger brother escaped, literally carrying their disabled mother on their shoulders. Now they share a tent in Hasansham. The two brothers cannot leave their mother unattended; she needs help round the clock.

Ahmed suffers from the separation of the family and the situation in the camp. Three weeks ago, he received a shattering call. His brother in Mosul had been killed during coalition clashes with ISIS. This news shocked him deeply. Ahmed feels guilty and is increasingly concerned about his father’s security. Ahmed became so desperate that he tried to kill himself twice. After his suicide attempts, his brother took him to our center. Ahmed looked tired and sad. Our therapists diagnosed him with a severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. A psychiatrist prescribed him with psychiatric drugs, and he started a psychotherapy. Ahmed’s mother and brother are often included in his sessions to strengthen family support. First improvements can already be observed: Ahmed’s suicidal thoughts have disappeared and he is starting to think in a more positive way. Further sessions are needed to enable Ahmed to cope with his trauma.

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