Months after the completion of the military operations to liberate northern Iraq from ISIS, most especially Mosul and Tal Afar, the post-war needs of affected civilians are so huge that we considered it as an ongoing humanitarian crisis.
As predicted by many studies of populations that suffered under ISIS rule, the psychological health problems of the population are acute. Women and children suffered the most severe forms of sexual violence, abuse, and human rights violations. Families have been torn apart. Over 12,000 people died, many are still missing. The people’s physical, mental, and emotional health are crucial elements for the recovery of Mosul and all of Ninewa, especially now during this time of transition. Only then shall it be possible to achieve the goal of peace, social cohesion, and the transformation of Mosul’s population from victims and survivors to strong and resilient communities. The most severely affected are the women and children of West Mosul. For this reason, Amalna’s very first project is the establishment of the first and only Psychosocial Support Centre for women and children in West Mosul.
In May, 2017, while the city of Mosul was undergoing intense bombardment as part of the military campaign to retake the city from ISIS, scores of civilians were fleeing every day. Bleeding, exhausted, in a state of shock, they stumbled over the frontline in search of safety. We are a small group of 5 health professionals, consisting of 2 emergency doctors from Mosul General Hospital, 2 psychosocial counsellors, and a volunteer medic from Switzerland. We established the Trauma Stabilisation Point (TSP) or clinic in Agidad sub-district, 200 meters from the frontline, primarily to treat injured civilians, most of whom were women and children. Ours was the only civilian-focused TSP during the war in West Mosul. In addition to treating war-related injuries, we also gave clinical care in the field to civilians suffering from hypertension and other chronic illnesses aggravated by the war. We also provided psychological first aid. Four out of five in our group were women.
In June, we established the psychosocial and trauma-counselling point in the Mosul General Hospital’s Psychiatry Ward. This was hospital was the only functioning medical facility in West Mosul, though heavily damaged when ISIS burned and ransacked its buildings in light of the advancing Iraqi Army.
The goal of the project is to provide accessible psychosocial care to women and children in West Mosul that will enable them to overcome trauma, rebuild shattered lives, and build a new future. Though is started as emergency response, the project was organized with the following in mind: the long-term implementation and provision of services to women who were affected by violence. Henceforth the Support Center for Women and Children was established.
While the center addresses all forms of violence against women, the post-conflict scenario of Mosul necessitates that primary focus be put on the violence suffered by women and children during the regime of the so-called Islamic State (Daesh). By the end of our first month, we had served over 900 women and 500 children in the center.
By providing women and their children with psychological first aid and trauma counselling, we guide them towards the path of healing, and we mitigate the risk of post-traumatic stress syndrome and other mental health problems in the future. By providing them with a safe space for reflection, sharing, and collective activities, we create a community of survivors that foster resilience and sustainable development.