The challenges and our response
Years of armed conflict, sectarian violence and political instability have forced nearly 10 percent of Iraq’s 37 million people from their homes—often more than once.
International Medical Corps was among the first international NGOs to establish lifesaving humanitarian programs in Iraq in the wake of the 2003 Iraq war. We have been there ever since and have assisted those in need in all 18 of the country’s governorates. Since 2014, our efforts have focused on meeting the needs of Syrian refugees and conflict-affected Iraqis in northern and central Iraq as we respond to ongoing violence and insecurity.
Our teams provide direct assistance to those who need it most, while bolstering local health systems and their capacity to deliver services in camp and non-camp settings – all within the framework of the United Nations Iraq Humanitarian Response Plan.
In the Kurdish Region of Iraq, we offer primary health care and basic reproductive health services in refugee camps and camps for internally displaced Iraqis in Erbil, Dohuk, and Sulimaniyah governorates. We also support displaced individuals and families living in hard-to-reach or underserved areas through our mobile medical units (MMUs).
Elsewhere in Iraq, we support local primary health care clinics in and around Mosul with medicines, physical repairs, staff training and other inputs that enable them to once again provide care to residents after three years of Islamic State control. In other parts of Ninewa governorate we operate primary health care clinics in camps that are home to tens of thousands of people who were forced from their homes in the battle for control of Mosul and the surrounding area. At the same time, we support mobile and static health facilities in Baghdad, Anbar, Kirkuk and Salahaddin governorates while retaining the flexibility to expand services to new areas should crises arise.
In 2018, International Medical Corps deployed 21 mobile medical units and supported 28 primary healthcare centers and one hospital. Through this support, we provided 586,407 consultations, including 116,837 consultations for children under 5 years old.
Our Community Health Workers (CHWs) provide the essential link between patients and primary health care service providers – generating the outreach to those who otherwise might be unable to access the services we support. Our staff also conducts disease surveillance and promotes both health awareness and good health habits in at-risk communities.
Our CHWs undergo comprehensive training to boost their understanding of common disease education messages and simple case definitions. With this knowledge, they go tent-to-tent in camps, and door-to-door in other areas as part of our integrated primary health care program. At least half of our CHWs are women, with those locally recruited helping us gain greater acceptance within their communities—an acceptance that makes residents more receptive to our messaging on such issues as the importance of education and the need for cultural sensitivities.
During 2018, we reached approximately 150,000 individuals with health education through CHWs.
International Medical Corps is a principal implementer of gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response programs in Iraq. Our experience has shown that community-led initiatives are vital. They help develop meaningful messaging for the local population and are key to engaging the government and community leaders required to achieve lasting impact.
We mentor those interested in actively supporting GBV prevention and response and raising awareness of available services and the consequences of GBV. In partnership with local organizations, we provide psychosocial activities in community centers and safe spaces, as well as GBV case management support. International Medical Corps’ GBV referral system is linked to our primary health care network ensuring integrated care. In hard-to-reach areas, GBV services are included into Mobile Medical Units, enabling the GBV teams to work closely with the community health teams. GBV outreach workers run community-based prevention and response campaigns, identify vulnerable women and girls, inform them of available services and make referrals if needed.
In 2018, we reached 288,797 females with GBV messaging and ran 25 women’s centers in six governorates of Iraq, where we provided a range of services and activities. International Medical Corps also co-chairs the national GBV sub-cluster and GBV working group for southcentral Iraq, and chairs the national adolescent girls initiative.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support
International Medical Corps places a particular priority on the availability of integrated MHPSS services for internally displaced Iraqis. This emphasis is due to the shortage of many of these services within Iraq and the gap in availability that separates basic and community-centered mental health care from important related support services.
To fill this gap, International Medical Corps provides integrated mental health services that include case management, outreach through outreach and community health workers, as well as psychiatric consultations. We use both clinic and community-based entry points through house-to-house outreach as well as direct linkages with primary health care service points. In addition, we provide training for our staff, Department of Health personnel and other service-providers in mhGAP as well as a technique used in crisis settings known as Psychological First Aid (PFA). At the national level, International Medical Corps also supports the Ministry of Health in developing and implementing a national MHPSS strategy, which in 2018 included supporting 27 psychosocial units across the country.