October 10, 2018
Today Is World Mental Health Day
Some of these women are members of our staff, fighting fearlessly to ensure access to health for millions of women around the world. Many of these women are patients we meet at our projects, whose strength and resilience in times of hardship serve as motivation and inspiration for us all.
This week, we’re highlighting just a small handful of women from countries such as Iraq, Ukraine, and Somalia in honor of #InternationalWomen’sDay.
In 2014, we began working to provide access to healthcare for those fleeing the atrocities of ISIS in Iraqi Kurdistan. Hairan is a Yazidi psychologist who has an intimate understanding of what our patients and their families are going through: not long ago, she and her family also fled from ISIS.
According to Hairan, “The most essential thing is to listen to people. I often see patients three or four times and their story is usually similar to mine. I do not prescribe medication, but I try to give advice to reduce stress. I try to be positive, to say the right thing and to bring some comfort. If their condition worsens, then they see a doctor and sometimes go to the hospital.”
Hairan tries not to dwell too much on the fate of her family. “I hope one day we can leave this country, we have no future here.” But for now, she concentrates on her work in Chamisku refugee camp – helping those fleeing ISIS to put the horrors of war behind them.
In Somalia, due to conflict and drought brought on by climate change, thousands of people are suffering from food insecurity. Fadumo Abshir Geire, our Program Coordinator in Somalia, has been working to combat malnutrition among women and children.
“In our health facilities we support pregnant mothers and children who have been displaced by the drought in rural areas. They often come from very far away – sometimes 45 kilometers or more. Most of these families have lost their livestock. The mothers tend to come here and leave the fathers in the villages to take care of anything the family has left. The mothers and children are usually malnourished and we provide them with Plumpynut.
It happens regularly that our colleagues in the centers, or our mobile teams, find children with severe malnutrition and complications. Our ambulance brings the children and their mothers to the specialized department at Bosaso Hospital where the children are given treatment immediately,” says Fadumo.
Since the conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2013, access to basic healthcare has been almost completely disrupted. Our teams started working in the Luhansk region of Ukraine in August 2015. Ludmila, a single mother of a young child, sees one of our psychologists for support.
As Ludmila relays, “I come to the psychologist mainly because of the crisis in eastern Ukraine. I’m really scared of it all and I fear for my child; he was less than 3 years old when it started. Our movement was totally restricted and there was no possibility to take him anywhere. We were cut off from the world completely. My son used to hide under the kitchen furniture when there was shelling. I’m raising him on my own and he has already begun to react badly to everything that’s going on.
At the beginning I was really uneasy, but then I got good advice and learned simple ways to help me cope with difficult situations. These sessions helped me so much.”
Svetlana has been working with Doctors of the World for over a year, and before that was working in a tuberculosis dispensary in Donetsk.
Svetlana described how ever since she was a child, she had dreamed of becoming a doctor. “Now I have the opportunity to help people and provide medical care to those that really need it.
By using the mobile clinic, we can reach many more people than we would with a stationary clinic. For example, in the village of Nyrkovo we provided medical check ups for 40 people in a short period of time – and all the elderly men and women are so thankful to us for coming.
Our activities are focused in the villages on the front line of the conflict where a lot of people have difficulties in getting to hospital due to lack of transport and all the military checkpoints. These people are cut off from the world. Because of the fighting the local population also tend to have a lot of psychological problems and mental health issues.”
In 2013, Rojina joined our team in Nepal where we work to promote women’s sexual and reproductive health in rural communities. When a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck in 2015, she was one of the first people on the scene to help.
“After the earthquake we had to act quickly to assess the damage, determine the needs and respond to emergency situations. By working with Doctors of the World, I’m able to reach remote communities that usually have to travel very far to receive any medical attention. Now a large part of our work is training local health professionals so that next time there is a disaster they know what procedures to implement.”
In Haiti, Doctors of the World works alongside the Haitian health services to prevent cholera epidemics from debilitating Haitian communities and respond to natural disasters as they occur. Dounia Boujhama is the General Coordinator for our program in Haiti and was vital in our response to the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
“Although we prepared extensively for the hurricane, the sheer size and impact of the storm still surprised us. Our teams developed cholera prevention programs and deployed mobile health clinics to provide primary health care in the most affected areas. We also helped to clear roads blocked by debris and to provide clean water to stop the spread of disease.
Despite the destruction, the ability of Haitians to rise up and organize is immensely impressive. The members of our team who were directly affected by the hurricane were some of the first people to mobilize a response. I am extremely proud of their courage and dedication.”