As people continue to flee conflict in northeast Syria for Iraq, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has launched medical activities at one site receiving refugees in Iraq along the border with Syria and has assessed mental health needs in Bardarash camp, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

“Immediately after the fighting in northeast Syria started, we quickly assessed different locations including reception sites at the Iraq-Syria border, and camps where we learned that refugees were going to be hosted,” said Marius Martinelli, MSF project manager. “In these types of assessments, we evaluate the site’s infrastructure, look at the services available, and coordinate with other organisations and authorities to determine and implement as rapidly as possible the most relevant activities for the people arriving.”

Our teams are now running two mobile clinics providing basic healthcare, psychological first aid and screening for whether people are malnourished at one reception site. Teams also assessed mental health needs in Bardarash camp while continuing to prepare for a potential surge in the number of arrivals.

Martinelli added: “In the reception site we work in, people were arriving in relatively acceptable health conditions. So far, we have not noticed any war-wounded, and overall, the nutritional conditions were good in both children and adults. We noticed relatively minor health issues mostly related to people’s long journeys by foot. These include: skin problems, respiratory infections, mild diarrhea and generalized body pain. Most of the people screened by our mental health team on their first day on site presented signs of depression and anxiety.”

Indicative of what seems to be endless waves of displacement in this region, Bardarash camp where MSF just started working, was originally opened for people fleeing the IS group in Mosul in 2014. The camp was closed in 2018 as its residents went back to the relatively calm Mosul, only to be reopened last week, this time to host people coming from out of Syria. 

More than 5300  people crossed the border from Syria to Iraq since the beginning of the conflict with more than 500 new arrivals every day for the last six days. Most of them were from Ras-Al-Ayn and Qamishli.

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