Red Crescent helps children overcome fears in Iraq

Published: 27 October 2016 14:41 CET

By Soraya Dali-Balta, IFRC

Across Iraq, more than 3.2 million people are displaced, and military operations in and around the city of Mosul could result in as many as a million more fleeing their homes. More than one third of people already displaced are children, many of whom have experienced trauma as a result of the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country. Iraqi Red Crescent Society provides psychosocial support in camps for refugees and displaced people, and put extra emphasis on helping children at risk.

15 year-old Zaynab lives together with her family in a camp for displaced people in Dahuk, in northern Iraq. Zaynab is a wheelchair user, and when they arrived at the camp in 2015, she was ashamed of her medical condition, preferring to stay inside with her parents. For 18 months, she lived in virtual isolation, with little or no interaction with others her own age.

During a visit to the camp in 2016, Iraqi Red Crescent Society relief volunteers took note of the situation and informed the psychosocial support team.

Rana Khaled Abdul Karim, who is in charge of psychosocial support at the Red Crescent, said the volunteers were keen on helping Zaynab overcome her fears: “The first time our teams tried to convince her to set a foot outside the camp, the young girl refused.”

“We cannot force anyone to do something they are not comfortable with, and we respected her hesitation,” Rana added.

Slowly, Zaynab showed willingness to cooperate with Red Crescent teams, Rana said. She agreed to accompany volunteers outside the camp and to participate in held activities.

“Seeing her interacting with other people her age again brought everyone to tears. She shed tears of joy, and her parents couldn’t believe their eyes,” said Rana.

“It was very emotional witnessing how Red Crescent volunteers succeeded in helping Zaynab overcome her fears.”

Through the 18 Iraqi Red Crescent Society branches spread across the country, psychosocial support teams are on mission to make the lives of people whose lives have been affected by the turmoil in Iraq easier.

The programme, which is supported by the Danish Red Cross, holds events and activities for different age groups, including awareness sessions on domestic violence, respect and child upbringing, capacity building, informative activities, amongst others.

As needs continue to grow in Iraq, the Red Crescent is expanding their psychosocial support programme in camps for people displaced from Mosul, in order to provide some respite for those that have experienced significant trauma over the past two years.