This World Refugee Day, June 20, International Medical Corps stands with the 45.2 million refugees and internally displaced people who lack basic resources after being driven from their homes due to conflict or natural disaster. Since its inception in 1984, the organization has supported refugees throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia with vital health care and training programs to restore self-reliance. In response to the current Syrian crisis which has resulted in over 93,000 deaths and forced 1.6 million (UNHCR) Syrians to flee to neighboring countries, International Medical Corps is implementing critical health and mental health programs throughout the region.
The now-two-year conflict in Syria has uprooted whole communities, with refugees struggling to find shelter and basic necessities like food, water and health care. What’s more, nearly half of the population are children under the age of 18, many of whom have witnessed horrific violence. Recognizing the psychological and emotional toll many Syrians are experiencing, International Medical Corps is providing mental health support for displaced Syrians in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
“Through International Medical Corps’ experience in assisting the displaced after crises in Haiti, Japan and Libya among others, we’ve learned that the most vulnerable groups – like children, the elderly and people with disabilities – are the most susceptible to emotional and psychological problems after a humanitarian crisis,” said Mary Jo Baca, International Medical Corps Mental Health Advisor in Jordan. “Unaddressed, these problems can cause significant suffering among the affected population and impact health, well-being and productivity in the long-term.”
At Za’atari camp in Jordan, which currently houses more than 100,000 Syrian refugees (55% under age 18), International Medical Corps is providing mental health and protection-focused case management services, psychosocial activities and humanitarian guidelines training, with support from UNICEF and UNHCR. Child protection teams are providing services and activities for children while simultaneously working with parents to identify ways to bring families back to stability.
In an effort to reduce psychological disturbances like fear, anxiety, and sleep issues among children in Za’atari, as well as provide essential information on improving emotional and psychological well-being within such a precarious environment, International Medical Corps is conducting awareness-raising sessions for caregivers and teachers. The organization is also training Community Mental Health Workers (CMHWs) to identify, refer and follow-up with people experiencing mental health problems. CMHWs are sourced from the displaced Syrian population, which ensures engagement and builds capacity among the Syrian community. International Medical Corps is also training Syrian volunteers to identify people with mental health or protection issues and to provide preventive services that help reduce risks and promote well-being and support.